Rep. Charles Rangel took several shots at the press over his ethics problems at a campaign event in New York Thursday — and then pledged not to speak publicly anymore about his case.
The New York Democrat, who held a widely-attended birthday party Wednesday night that doubled as a fundraiser, said the press was trying to prejudge his actions before the House ethics committee puts him on trial.
"I should not have to encourage the Fourth Estate to take a look at the law, that should help," he said. "No paper can deny anybody, even a Charlie Rangel, the opportunity to a fair, equitable and just hearing."
Rangel's comments mark the third time this week he has publicly defended himself against the 13 ethics violations he is accused of committing.
On Tuesday, he delivered a long and meandering speech as the House
passed a state-aid package, which seemed to frustrate Democratic
leaders, who had hoped that the legislation would take center stage.
Rangel seemed to acknowledge that, saying "I have to get back to work" to help fix the economy, focus on two overseas wars and run his campaign.
"That's what last Tuesday should have been entirely about," he said.
himself at his birthday bash and fundraiser at the upscale Plaza
Hotel Wednesday night. The Harlem lawmaker said the attendees, including
both New York senators and members of the state's congressional
delegation, showed up in part to speak out for due process.
much as my ego would like me to believe they came out for Charlie
Rangel, I don't think that's the whole story," he said. "I think they
came out for the process.
"What about a new member that could be run out of office?" he added, stressing that his guests were familiar with the "negative power of the press."
But Rangel said that, going forward, he would not speak publicly about
his ethics charges.
"For those of you who need to ask
questions about ethics, continue to ask them, but ask the guys in
Washington when I am going to get a hearing," he said.
repeatedly stressed that, over the next few weeks, he intends in his
public speeches to "restrict myself to trying to get elected."
The 20-term lawmaker said he was committed to campaigning hard to win his Sept. 14 primary contest against New York Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV.
But he urged President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to stay out of the race because the 15th district will almost certainly remain in Democratic hands, even if he loses the primary.
An adjudicatory subcommittee is expected to try Rangel when the House returns from recess in September, a bad time for Democrats, who are in danger of losing control of the chamber in the November midterm elections.
Rangel declined to answer several questions about the ethics charges against his colleague in the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), and private conversations he has had with members on the House floor.
"They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens on the House floor stays on the House floor," he said.
The congressman told members of the press that "you'll have the opportunity to take a shot" without repeating unfounded charges, but said that he would not hold a grudge if he is acquitted.
"If you can't find anything, don't even apologize, move on," he said.