Thanks to TIME’s Katy Steinmetz, a rough transcript of Rep. Charlie Rangel’s speech on the floor today:
The Speaker Pro Tempore: For what purpose does the gentleman from New York seek recognition? The house will be in order. Members will take their seats. The house will be in order. Members will please clear the aisles. The chair is aware of a valid basis for the gentleman’s point of personal privilege. The gentleman from New York is recognized for one hour …
Rangel: I rise to the floor because the newspapers and the media have indicated that there’s a concern of some of the members of this House that I retire or I remove myself from this body, and I’ve always tried to play by the rules. And I cannot think of anybody that has encouraged me to speak here, and I want to thank all of you who are concerned about me for saying that, you know, a guy’s a fool to represent himself, as some of the people have said.
But I have been losing a lot of sleep over these allegations and my family and my community. And some of these rules that they have [are] that I’m restricted by confidentiality, but for years I’ve been saying, ‘No comment, no comment, no comment,’ to a lot of serious allegations because I could not comment, and I would refer them to the ethics committee. And when the ethics committee finally brought out their statement of alleged violations, it was a long list of things, and somehow the chairman of the subcommittee investigation indicated that I had received a lot of offers to settle this thing so that it would not cause embarrassment to our Democratic friends. And that I’d been offered a reprimand and that a lot of people thought it sounded like I’d been offered a wonderful opportunity to remove this so that I could leave the Congress with some degree of dignity.
Why some people have suggested that even the president has suggested his life would be made easier if there was no Charlie Rangel, so-called, scandal. But I interpret it another way. I think when the president said that he wanted me to end my career in dignity, he didn’t put a time limit on it, and I would think that his concern would be that if any member of the House of Representatives had been accused of serious crimes or allegations that some how there has to be some process that the member has an opportunity to tell his constituents, his family and his friends what he didn’t believe.
So when the chairman of the investigative committee said that I had been offered a settlement, it reminded me of something that I will devote my retiring years to aside from the science of education, which is the major thrust of my attempt here, is that those of you that have come anywhere near criminal courts, we have a terrible thing that happens throughout the United States. And that is that someone gets arrested for a very serious crime, and they get a lawyer, and the lawyer explains that ‘I think it’s better that you plead guilty to a lesser crime,’ and [the person] says, ‘Well, I’m not only not guilty, but I don’t even know what’s involved here.’ And they say, ‘Well listen, we don’t think you should plead guilty if you’re innocent, but we think you ought to know that this judge, if you’re found guilty, is gonna send you away for 20 years. On the other hand, you have no offense, you’re a first offender, so you could just forget about this thing and explain later what happens.’ And so he continues to tell [his lawyer], ‘Hey I’m willing to admit I’ve done some things wrong but I shouldn’t have to’ …
Anyway, the lawyer says ‘Hey, we’d never tell you to quit or resign. We’re telling you that it would be easier for us that this is not an issue.’ But knowing the president, as I do, I think he believes that everybody is entitled to be judged for the allegations against them. Now, what’s working against me? We’ve been called back to this House because the speaker called us here in order to make certain that we provide resources for governors and mayors to maintain our teachers and our firefighters, and Rangel’s not on the schedule for anything, which is okay.
But I know that the members of the ethics committee, they work hard, it’s a selfless job. God knows I wouldn’t take it. I respect the time that they placed on this. And it’s been almost two years, but I have a primary that takes place a couple days before they even though about meeting. And then I found out from my lawyer that even when they meet on the 13th of September, there is no trial date then.
And so I don’t want to embarrass anybody. As a matter of fact, those people that believe that their election is going to be dependent on me resigning … I think Republicans have given you enough reason to get reelected, and they continue to do something. But quite frankly … well, I don’t want to be critical of the ethics committee because my lawyer said you can’t make them, you can’t get annoyed with them because there still may be room for a settlement. And I thought about it. And, well, when I found out that one of the Republicans that will be sitting on what they call the adjudication committee had made remarks condemning me for my contributions to the City College, that it was a Rangel thing, an ego thing, and a corrupt thing, and he was going to judge me, I asked my lawyer. I said, ‘How can they do that?’ He said, ‘Well, the ethics committee can do whatever they want. I said, ‘Well, do me a favor. I’ve paid close to $2 million. I continue to owe you money. And you’re telling me that you have no idea when there’s going to be a hearing … Do me a favor on Friday. Let’s see what happens today in terms of reaching out to settle this thing, because I can’t afford to be represented by counsel.’
Each and every day the expenses build up, and I think that I have an obligation to younger members of Congress to be able to tell them, ‘If you couldn’t raise the $2 million, you’re out of business, no matter what the allegations are. Because no one’s going to read the defense …’ I am here because I could afford lawyers for close to two years, but everyone would know that there comes a limit. So I told them, just put everything on hold. See what happens when we meet here. And guess what? Nothing happened. There’s no agenda. So what they’re saying is that, while the ethics committee will be leaving [for] members to be able to work in their districts and get reelected, and I’m having a primary, and I have to wait until after my primary to find out when the ethics committee intends to have a hearing. And then that hearing, maybe, comes just before the general election. Then there must be something wrong with the rules because people would advise me that I could only hurt myself by coming before this committee.
Nobody has tried to protect the integrity of the Congress with almost two years, almost two years of investigation. They’re saying the mistakes that Rangel has made should be public, and it should’ve been public earlier than now. And I couldn’t say anything because I couldn’t offend and don’t want to offend the ethics committee. But the ethics committee won’t even tell me when I’m gonna have a hearing. And, heck, people are concerned about me. I’m 80 years old. I don’t wanna die before the hearing. And I think my electorate are entitled to finding out who their congressman of 40 years is. Who am I? Am I corrupt? Did I get a nickel? And what did they offer me? And I want to be a role model for new members and tell them the mistakes I’ve made so they don’t make them.
So there’s a list of foundations that specialize in providing funds for education for kids. So I’m convinced that the president wants some dignity in knowing that not only am I one of his strongest supporters, but I know that you know that unless we are able to provide education for every child that’s there, almost by any means possible, that our nation’s national security is being threatened by foreigners. That our ability to be ahead of the curve in terms of trade [is threatened]. And nobody is more supportive of the president in terms of trade. Clear up some of the things in the Korean bill so that you don’t hurt us. Clean up a little corruption and violence in Colombia and move on with the thing. So the whole idea really is me trying to having some dignity in making certain that America stronger.
Now, the thing is that in the haste of sending out hundreds of letters, never asking for a penny but still suggesting we should meet with these people because I knew it would convince them — I hoped it would convince them to provide money. Now a lot of people have done that — doesn’t mean it’s right — but the rules have changed. and so there has to be a penalty for grabbing the wrong stationery and not really doing the right thing. But it’s not corrupt. It may be stupid or negligent, but it’s not corrupt. And there’s no indication of any sworn testimony saying that I received a benefit.
Some might say that the benefit is that you have your name up there. Well, I wish you’d go to my website to take a look at my answers. This is a broken down building that you have to run away from if someone’s gonna put your name on it. But it’s still there. Then they said that I’d receive a luxurious office — the sworn testimony was [that] they never told me that they were going to give it to me. Who the heck needs an office, with 40 years of service in the Congress, in a broken down building? And then they say, ‘Hey, we didn’t ask him. We just put it in there.’ So we encouraged people to put it in there. And they said they thought the name was not a benefit to me but a benefit for them in order to get money. So I can’t imagine why in the course of all these things that I used government personnel, didn’t buy stamps. Well, if you think that it’s official and you’re wrong, then I violated the benefits. And at the end of the day, the inferences are very serious and mistakes can be made and they shouldn’t have — these things shouldn’t have happened.
But I can’t walk away and have you guys doing your campaign because I’m annoying. And the action is out there calling me corrupt, and no one’s coming forward saying, ‘Rangel’s not corrupt. Rangel didn’t make a nickel.’ No witness ever said that there was preferential treatment given, and the one guy that had an issue before the Senate, staff, Republicans, everybody, said that it never came before the House but they keep putting it down there. And guess what? It was the district attorney of New York for over 40 years that suggested that I meet with them because he was in the education, philanthropic business, in addition to having business in the Senate, which Republicans and Democrats say never came to the ways and means committee. And staff certainly can prove it. I don’t know how far they’d go in making a mistake in trying to help kids, but you have to be very careful, new members, of making certain that when they change the rules that you know what happens. And I’m prepared to say, I ‘m sorry for any embarrassment that has caused.
Another issue has to do with having an office, a congressional office in the building that I live in. Now forever people say that I’ve taken advantage and had four rent controlled, stabilized apartments. Nobody has said that the ethics committee never found four stabilized apartments. No one said I broke any laws. No one said that the apartment that they considered two has always been considered one at the least. No one said that 10 years ago there was an apartment, a one-bedroom apartment, that I got from my family, from my political friends, that I no longer have, but the concern was, ‘Well, how do you explain the congressional office?’
Well, let’s read the landlord’s testimony. He said it was 20% vacant, that he needed money, that he knew his checks were paid by the congressional committee, that the mail came there “Rangel for Congress,” and that the lawyers have told him, and the officials of the city and state of New York, that there was no violation of any law or rules. And, what was the benefit? The benefit was that your colleague and friend was not sensitive to the fact that there was [the] appearance as though I was being treated differently than anyone else. But the landlord said he didn’t treat me any differently. No one said that they did treat me differently. But I have to admit that I wasn’t sensitive to anything because I never felt then that I was treated any differently than anybody else. And so that ends the apartment thing, but I plead guilty for not being sensitive.
Now comes to the negligence of the disclosures and the tax issues. There was absolutely no excuse that’s there. When accusations were made, I hired a forensic accountant and told them to check out what the heck was going on because I wanted to make certain that when I stand up and speak that it was true. Well, after I found out the truth was far more serious than the accusations, I then referred it to the ethics committee. It wasn’t as though someone tracked me down, the IRS or the clerk of the House. I filed the correct papers, and the taxes that were paid — an accountant might say that had my accountant recognized that this $32,000 down payment for a house in the Dominican Republic that was promised to be paid off in seven years would be a complete failure, and if indeed they did not give me one nickel but whenever they thought they were making a dollar or two they reduced the mortgage, then there’s no question. You don’t have to be a tax expert to know that if you didn’t report that income, not withstanding the fact that if you’d done the right thing you’d have no liability because the taxes that were paid to the Dominican Republic would’ve been deducted and with depreciation, I would’ve had no liability. Having said that – is that an excuse that’s worthy? Of course not.
And the fact that there was negligence on the part of the person who for 20 years did it, and the fact that I signed it, that’s not really giving an excuse as to why I should not apologize to this body for not paying the attention to it that I should’ve paid to it. But there is no, not one scintilla bit of evidence that the negligence involved in the disclosures, that there was some way to hide from the public what I had because the value of the property. People were saying it was $25,000 $100,000 $125,000 whatever it would be that it didn’t make any sense that I was trying to disclose it. So why did I take the floor today when, boy, I haven’t found one lawyer that said I should do it? I haven’t found one fiend that said I should do it. But I thought about it. If the lawyers are going to continue to charge me, and I don’t even know when the hearings gonna be, and I can’t tell them that I want one and not six lawyers …
I don’t want to offend the ethics committee. They’re doing the best they can. But hey, I’m in a position … [Brief interlude asking members to take conversations off the floor] Hey, I’m 80 years old. All my life has been from the beginning public service. That’s all I’ve ever done. Been in the Army, been a state legislator, been a federal prosecutor, 40 years here, and all I’m saying is that if it is the judgment of people here, for whatever reason, that I resign, then heck, have the ethics committee expedite this. Don’t leave me swinging in the wind until November. If this is an emergency, and I think it is, to help our local and state governments out, what about me? I don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed, awkward. Hey, if I was you, I may want me to go away too. I am not going away. I am here. And I do recognize that …
[Interrupted by clapping]
I’m not saying there’s any partisanship in this because if I knew of all the people that had been accused of accusations, I’m in a close district, and I, they were Republicans, I’d give a couple of moments of thought to see whether or not, especially if I didn’t have anything to work with to get reelected. I would say ‘Hey, take a look at these Republicans. They’ve been accused.’ But I don’t really think that the unfairness of this is to me. I don’t take it personally. I’m thinking about all of you. The president wants dignity. Let’s have dignity in this house where the ethics committee means something. And that none of you, if the newspapers say anything, will have to wait two years before you can say ‘No comment.’
And in addition to that, once they make the accusations, they have no business making any mistakes and saying that I didn’t cooperate. I got papers with my signature on it. I got papers that say I tried my darnedest. I got papers where my lawyer tells me she has every reason to believe that the full committee would sign on, and there was space for people to sign. I’m the only one who signed. I don’t know what changed their minds about settling this case. But my lawyer says ‘Don’t offend them.’ My friends say, ‘Don’t go to the floor.’ And I say, ‘What are you gonna do [to] me?’ Suppose I do get emotional. Suppose I do [inaudible] my life, the beginning and the end. Are you gonna expel me from this body? Are you gonna say that while there’s no evidence that I took a nickel, asked for a nickel, that there’s no sworn testimony, no conflict, that I have to leave here? As much as I love you Democrats that figure it’ll be easy for you, I’m the guy that was raising money in Republican districts to get you here.
But that doesn’t mean that I criticize you for saying, ‘Hey, that’s great then, but I’m running for reelection now.’ I mean, do what you have to do. And Republicans, hey, you don’t have much to run on [laughter] but you know, what the hell, if Rangel is an embarrassment, based on newspaper articles, I can see why you would do it, but think. Think. Isn’t this historically the first time that it appears as though partisanship has [inaudible] the ethics committee. Isn’t it historically the first time that the recommendations of the subcommittee of investigations has turned down? And darn, who the heck would want somebody who politically called you corrupt to be the ranking bipartisan guy to judge you?
Now I don’t expect answers today, and I know you’re going home. I wish all of you well, but at the end of the day, somebody, somebody has to do more than wish I go away. Somebody has to tell me, ‘When does Rangel get a chance to talk to talk to [witnesses]?’ I haven’t talked with any member of the ethics committee. I haven’t talked, I mean in terms of settlement, my lawyers have. I haven’t talked with any of the witnesses. And they had to expedite this case. In other words, I have a shorter time to prepare for reasons. But they tell me, ‘Don’t challenge the ethics committee.’ They make up this stuff as they go along. So my lawyer can understand how financially, this thing can go on longer than I can afford. But she is willing to assist me in working out something in pro bono, and I’ll expect the leadership to help me.
Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t walk away from here because it’s convenient that I disappear. Because not all of you will be able to withstand it as I have. If there’s no issue of corruption, if everybody including the leader over here has to start off with what a great American I am before he drops the bomb (17:41), well I think that should count for something. And I am not asking for leniency. I’m asking for exposure of the facts. They’ve made a decision. I want you to make a decision.
Now, I apologize to the leadership. I feel for those people, especially newcomers that love this place so much that, like someone said, ‘Charlie, they all love you.’ And I paused until they finished and said, ‘But they love themselves better.’ I understand that, you know. But for god’s sake, just don’t believe that I don’t have feelings, that I don’t have pride, that, that I do want the dignity that the president has said. And that dignity is that even if you see fit to cause me not to be able to come back, because you’re not gonna be able to do it in my district, but if there’s some recommendation that I be expelled, for me, for me, that would be dignity. Because it shows openly that the system isn’t working for me, and I hope some of you might think, if it doesn’t work for me, that it may not work for you.
So I know we’re anxious to get home. I know I can’t get on the agenda. I know that sometime, somewhere, I will have a hearing. So while you’re saying I should resign, I do hope that you might think about what happens if the whole country [starts] thinking that it’s better if you resign and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable than to have the truth, at least a person an opportunity to say, ‘You have made alleged violations.’ I am saying that you’re wrong based on sworn testimony. And I want somebody, and I don’t think it’s going to be people who have been critical of me for doing the same thing that’s gonna be the judge. And I know outside doesn’t count because we judge the conduct of our own members. Adam Powell knew that when they wouldn’t let him be seated. And the courts, of course, overruled it. But if I can’t get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot in getting rid of me through expulsion.
Now I apologize for any embarrassment that I have caused. I’m prepared to admit and try to let young people know that you never get too big to recognize that these rules are for junior members as they are for senior members and that you can’t get so carried away with good intentions that you break the rules, because the rules are there to make certain that we have some order, some discipline and respect for the rules. And I violated that. And I’m apologizing for it. And I don’t think apologies mean that this is a light matter. It’s very serious. But corruption? No evidence. No suggestion that this was ever found.
And lastly I close by saying that there is an organization that some of you know, certainly [inaudible] national truth in government, whatever, and the only thing I can say that some of my more important Democrats on the list have sent out mail soliciting money in order to get rid of me, even before I became the chairman. And they have a website that I will be giving you because they got a lot of our members, including my caucus members, on their list. And what I do remember is, ‘Send your money in now. We got Rangel against the ropes, and we’re gonna get rid of him.’ Everyone knows who they are. And they followed me on vacation. They followed me when I was doing business. They’re at the airport. They’re outside where I live. It’s kind of rough.
I’m sensitive to your feelings and the hard work of the ethics committee, but this has to stop sometime. It has to stop. One month. One year. Two years. Primaries. Election. And all I’m saying is I deserve and demand the right to be heard. And if I hurt anybody’s [feelings], believe me, it’s the equity and the fairness and the justice that I’m asking for and not your feelings. We’re entitled to our political feelings and what we want done. But we have to respect each other and this institution, which I love. I love my country. I love my Congress. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to preserve this from going on.
I love the disagreements. I love the debates. I love the arguments, but you’re not gonna tell me to resign to make you feel comfortable. So to all those who tried to help me to help myself, let me appreciate it, and to those who disagree, I’m sorry, but that’s one thing you can’t take away from me. So thank you for listening. I do hope that you have a pleasant time while you’re away. And maybe, just maybe, the members of the ethics committee might think about telling me when they think they might have a hearing, so that whatever they decide, I can let my constituents, my [family], my friends know that I did the best I could, as an American, as a patriot and someone that loves this country. Thank you for your attention. Go home.