Rep. Rangel’s censure vote is imminent

Tensions are high within the Democratic caucus in anticipation of a vote to censure Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), which could come as early as Wednesday.

House Democratic leaders could call for the censure vote at any time during the lame-duck session, but the ethics committee’s Tuesday release of hundreds of pages of documents pertaining to the charges and subsequent trial of Rangel has the lawmaker and his allies on red alert for the impending vote.

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Rangel, a 40-year House veteran and former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and his allies are issuing a vigorous plea for leniency. They are calling on members to downgrade the punishment for a string of ethics violations to the less humiliating alternative of a reprimand.

Rangel met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and the rest of the Democratic leaders Tuesday afternoon. He threw up his hands when asked whether he would give a statement on the floor before the vote and said he didn’t know when the roll call would be held.

Meanwhile, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking Democrat in the House and a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Tuesday that he would vote against censuring Rangel.

“I will not vote for censure,” Clyburn, the majority whip, told reporters. “I don’t think the violations that he admitted to were that egregious that censure would be in order. A reprimand, I thought, was more appropriate.

“I know you hold his position to a higher standard, and I do, but I still don’t think they get to censure,” he added. He said he thought other members would vote against the resolution, but said he was not lobbying against the punishment.

Two other members of the CBC, Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), also have said they would oppose the censure.

The House ethics committee recommended the punishment after an adjudicatory panel found Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethics violations, including improperly soliciting donations for an educational center bearing his name, failing to pay taxes on a Caribbean villa and filing financial disclosure forms riddled with mistakes.

Censure is the highest sanction with which the House can punish one of its members — short of expulsion. The punishment requires a majority vote of House members to enact and would require that Rangel be in the “well” of the House chamber while the resolution is read aloud.

Rangel has repeatedly said he didn’t personally benefit from any of the activities in question, and that is one of his key arguments for lessening the penalty to a reprimand.

The ethics committee’s Tuesday document dump included the text of the panel’s censure resolution against Rangel, transcripts of open hearings and many letters between Rangel, his attorneys and the committee.

In the report, the ethics committee said its reasons for recommending censure are based on the “cumulative nature of the violations and not any direct personal gain.”

“The committee concluded that the eleven violations committed by Representative Rangel on a continuous and prolonged basis were more serious in character, meriting a strong Congressional response rebuking his behavior,” the panel wrote in its report.

The documents also detail the mounting frustration between the Harlem lawmaker and the ethics panel. Throughout the past several months, Rangel has accused the committee of denying him due process by conducting a drawn-out investigation and, in the later stages of the process, denying him the right to an attorney.

The documents include a letter dated Oct. 14 from Leslie B. Kiernan, a partner at the firm Zuckerman Spaeder, which used to represent Rangel, explaining the congressman was no longer a client. The one-paragraph letter contains no explanation for the decision.

Correspondence between the committee and Rangel was also released, outlining his options to obtain legal representation.

The sometimes-partisan nature of the trial was also detailed in the documents.

In August, Rangel’s lawyers at Zuckerman Spaeder wrote a letter to Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas) in which they asked that he recuse himself from the case due to critical statements he made about Rangel’s involvement in obtaining funding for the public policy center.

It also named witnesses who were prepared to testify during Rangel’s public trial, including Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE; Rangel’s district director James Capel; fundraising director, Walter Swett; AIG Vice President Edward “Ned” Cloonan and CEO Maurice Greenberg; and other corporate executives.

The documents explain the absence of a written defense to the committee’s charges, formally called the Statement of Alleged Violation. Kiernan submitted a lengthy written defense, but the panel rejected it because they said it was submitted after the deadline, even though she had two extensions. Also, it did not include a signed statement under oath from Rangel, as the committee rules mandate.

Because of this, the panel had informed Kiernan that Rangel’s response would be considered a denial of all the charges.

In a July 22 letter, Kiernan told the committee that she and Rangel didn’t understand that finding because they had submitted his written defense “under penalty of perjury.”

Kiernan also took issue with the panel’s decision to issue a press statement at 4 p.m. that day and requested a delay so Rangel could have the opportunity to “cure the defect” in his answer.

“To do otherwise would leave the press with misimpression that Congressman Rangel did not file an answer, which is simply not true,” she wrote.

Russell Berman contributed to this article.