This afternoon, in the first step toward a trial that's been years in the making, four Democratic and four Republican members of the House announced 13 charges against Rep. Charlie Rangel. The Harlem Democrat, who has served in the House for 39 years, is a legendary and well-liked member of Congress. He is known for earning a Purple Heart in the Korean War and mentoring new arrivals to Capitol Hill.
He has also been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for two years. Though members of the committee tried to strike a deal with Rangel to avoid a public trial during such a high-stakes election season, he apparently was not willing to admit to as many of the charges as they wanted. Rangel did not attend today's announcement.
Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican, and Rep. Gene Green, a Democrat, presented the charges. McCaul worried about how the accusations would affect Congress's reputation, citing a poll that found that only 11 percent of Americans have a positive view of the institution. "In the mind of the American people, Congress has become self-serving and so tone-deaf that somehow the rules don't apply to them," McCaul said.
This characterization will only be furthered by the fact that, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (he stepped down in March), Rangel was in charge of writing tax laws that he is now accused of breaking.