N.Y. Rep. Charles Rangel Says He Will Fight Ethics Charges Until the End

New York congressman defiantly says he will clear his name of ethics charges.

July 23, 2010, 4:41 PM

July 23, 2010— -- Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., seemed defiant, outright angry about the charges being brought against him by the House Ethics Committee as he vowed to clear his name at his Harlem office Friday afternoon.

Rangel, 80, spoke briefly to reporters and vowed to fight the charges with full force.

"Nobody in his right mind [would] be looking forward to something like this [that is] public," Rangel said. "But certainly, I knew one thing -- that 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. And I want to make certain that before this [November] election people know who Charlie Rangel was."

Rangel said he was relieved that a two-year investigation of his actions finally would be coming to a close and that the charges against him would be made public.

"I apologize for not being able to go further, but I hope you do get some sort of satisfaction that this thing is coming to a head," Rangel told reporters.

"My lawyers would kill me because they say the best thing in my best interests is not to make any comment," Rangel said. "I don't know how to say no comment."

While the House ethics panel has not disclosed the specific violations Rangel is being charged with, ABC News has learned some details.

One allegation says Rangel accepted four luxury rent-controlled apartments from a New York City developer. Rangel pays about $4,000 a month for the units, only half the alleged value of the apartments.

Another charge claims that improper fundraising was used for the Charles Rangel Center at City University of New York. For one big donor, Rangel allegedly saved a tax loophole worth a half a billion dollars. The allegations also include a failure to disclose more than $500,000 in assets.

The Ethics Committee has been investigating the Harlem congressman in secret for two years and tried to avoid a trial by getting Rangel to admit wrongdoing. Rangel refused and continues to assert his innocence.

"It's kind of awkward to explain that to your kids and grandkids, what you see on the front page, but hey, I'm in the kitchen and I'm not walking out," said Rangel.

Now Rangel faces a public trial and the possibility of sanctions ranging from a damaging committee report to censure or even expulsion by the House.

The last time Congress went through this type of public drama was in 2002, when Democrat James Traficant of Ohio went before the Ethics Committee on charges of bribery and tax evasion, and became only the fifth member in history expelled from the House.

This time, the trial, which likely would start in September, will play out in middle of the fall election campaign. When asked how his trouble could affect Democrats seeking re-election, Rangel responded, "pain is pain."

Still, the entire fiasco is an embarrassment to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Rangel's longtime ally, who famously pledged four years ago, "We will make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history."

Privately, House Democrats would like Rangel to resign so they can avoid the spectacle of a trial during a difficult campaign. But as Rangel made clear today, he has no intention of going away quietly.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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