Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who faces an ethics trial next month, has parted ways with his lead defense attorneys in the case, according to several sources familiar with the matter.
It is unclear what, if any, impact this will have on the Rangel trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 15. It is also not clear whether Rangel decided to get rid of his attorneys or if they left of their own volition.
Rangel has been represented by the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder for the past two years as the ethics scandal surrounding the New York Democrat grew in size and scope. Leslie Kiernan, a well-respected white-collar criminal expert at Zuckerman Spaeder, has headed up his legal team. Rangel has paid the firm more than $1.4 million since the ethics investigation began in mid-2008, according to Federal Election Commission records. Lawmakers are allowed to use campaign funds to cover attorneys’ fees in cases related to their official duties.
Overall, Rangel has publicly stated that he has spent “close to $2 million” to cover his legal bills.
The offices of Zuckerman Spaeder and Rangel’s office would comment for this article.
The House ethics committee also declined to comment on this latest development or whether Rangel’s move will have an impact on the schedule for the trial.
Rangel, first elected to the House in 1970, has been hit with a 13-count “Statement of Alleged Violation” by the ethics committee after a two-year investigation into his personal finances. The charges include allegations that he improperly solicited millions of dollars from corporate officials and lobbyists for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College in New York; failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets on financial disclosure forms; maintained multiple rent-stabilized apartments in a luxury Harlem apartment building; and failed to pay income taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic.
Rangel has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and he refused to resign from the House, despite what he said were calls from his colleagues asking him to do so. Rangel was unable to reach agreement with the ethics committee on a settlement that would have avoided an ethics trial. Rangel has publicly declared that he welcomes a chance to tell his side of the story at the “adjudicatory subcommittee” proceedings that are scheduled for next month.
A bipartisan, eight-member panel made of members of the ethics committee not involved in the Rangel investigation will hear the case, with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the full ethics committee, overseeing the proceedings.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has been charged with three violations of House ethics rules, is scheduled to have her case begin Nov. 29.