Instead of a week long ethics drama involving Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), the House Ethics committee moved quickly to bring his public ethics trial to a close, as members continue deliberations today.
The fast-track process started when Rangel walked out of the committee proceedings, protesting the panel's refusal to give him more time to find new lawyers to defend him.
Rangel had run up a pretty big tab with his lawyers before they begged off the case in early October, supposedly worried that Rangel would not have the cash to pay them.
Rangel had asked the committee for the okay to raise money for a legal defense fund, which is a completely legitimate option. But instead of looking for cash, Rangel seemingly decided to play the Card of Unfairness, charging that the panel isn't giving him a fair hearing.
Rangel went on the offensive right away in the hearing, refusing to act as his own counsel, telling committee members that such a move would be "very, very unwise."
The veteran New York Democrat complained that his family had "been through hell" and that his 50-plus years of public service was "at risk" because of these proceedings, which he said had been skewed against him from the start.
Those arguments fell on deaf ears, as the committee once more turned aside Rangel's pleas for more time, which have alternated with earlier requests to give him a speedy ethics review.
"The process that the Committee has decided to take against me violates the most basic rights of due process that is guaranteed to every person under the Constitution," said Rangel.
But instead of hearing from Rangel on that and more for up to ten hours, the committee quickly moved to a summary judgment phase, as the panel's chief counsel laid out the case against the New York Democrat, arguing that he had violated the rules by not revealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income on his Congressional disclosure forms.
When asked whether Rangel had "enriched" himself, the committee top lawyer said 'no', arguing that Rangel's failure to adhere to House Rules was more a result of "sloppy" accounting than a conspiracy to avoid disclosure.
With Rangel not in the hearing room, the proceedings took on an odd air, where it seemed like the Congressman was being tried in absentia, with no chance to call witnesses or rebut the case of the ethics committee.
But in the end, it was Rangel who chose not to stay and make his case.
We'll see if the Ethics panel finishes its deliberations today.
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