A day after being hit with official charges of ethics violations and lashing out at a reporter who asked if the allegations could cost him his job, Rep. Charlie Rangel struck a somewhat softer tone at a press conference in Harlem.
After news emerged yesterday that a four-member house panel charged Rangel with multiple ethics violations, the 80-year-old Harlem Democrat was particularly combative and said in a statement that he was "pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media."
Today, when asked if her was looking forward to a House trial, Rangel had a different take.
"No. Hell no," he said. "Nobody in his right mind would be looking forward to something like this public."
The former chairmen of the tax-writing Ways and Means panel didn't offer much in way of explanation, deferring many questions to his lawyer. But he said he wanted to face the press because reporters were staking out his home and his office. And while he said he couldn't address the individual allegations before the Thursday's hearing, he said he wasn't backing away from the fight.
"It’s kind of awkward to explain to your kids and your grandkids what you see on the front page, but hey I’m in the kitchen and I’m not walking out," said Rangel.
"I called this morning and I have very good conversation with Luke Russert," Rangel said. "And I apologized for the way I treated him on television."
But Rangel also expressed relief that the allegations would be made public and he could stop saying no comment and the truth could be know.
"When a person is elected to public office, there is a higher level of honesty and openness and transparency that’s on him rather than just an ordinary citizen, " Rangel said. "And I want to make certain that before this election that people know who Charlie Rangel, was, is and is proud to be."
It was disclosed Thursday that Rangel is being charged with multiple ethics violations. The ethics committee won't reveal the specific charges until next Thursday at a public meeting. However, several persons familiar with the allegations, who were not authorized to discuss them publicly, said some of the charges against Rangel, who has spent 40 years in Congress, were related to:
—Rangel's use of official stationery to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.
—His use of four rent-subsidized apartment units in New York City. The city's rent stabilization program is supposed to apply to one's primary residence. One had been used as a campaign office, raising a separate question of whether the rent break was an improper gift.
—Rangel's failure to report income as required on his annual financial disclosure forms. The committee had investigated his failure to report income from the lawmaker's rental unit at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic. Rangel also belatedly disclosed hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment assets.
Sanctions can range from a damaging committee report to censure by the House and even expulsion, a punishment reserved for only the most egregious violations.
Ironically, Rangel raised money for scores of Democratic candidates before his ethics problems surfaced. Now, many Democrats wouldn't touch a contribution from Rangel's leadership fund and might pressure him to accept the charges or even get out of his re-election race.