Denied his plea for a delay, Rep. Charles Rangel walked out of his ethics trial Monday, leaving the ethics committee's top lawyer to cite Rangel's past statements in arguing that the 20-term New York Democrat violated House rules.
Chief House ethics counsel Blake Chisam, assuming the role of prosecutor at the rare public airing of in-House issues, played a video of a Rangel speech on the House floor in August. Rangel, former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged in that presentation that he'd used House stationery to raise money for a college center named after him.
Rangel also said in the August speech that he had been tardy in filing taxes and financial disclosure statements, but that he had no intention of breaking any rules.
Chisam told an ethics panel of four Republicans and four Democrats, "There are no ... issues as to any material facts in this case. As a result the case is ripe for a decision."
Rangel stalked out of the proceeding after imploring the panel for a delay until he could obtain a new lawyer. The panel declined his request after a closed session and the proceeding - rare in the annals of the House - went forward without Rangel's participation.
While I think it's a good thing that we stand up for integrity and ethics, I'm sure that Rangel feels it's a shame he couldn't delay until the Republicans regain control of the House in January. Because I'm sure it comes as no surprise that the Republicans are working to weaken the Ethics Committee.