Charlie Rangel Ethics Trial Probably Going to Be Something of a Mess [Update: Yup!]

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As Congress returns to Washington today to begin its exciting lame-duck session — which should be about as productive as the name implies — Charlie Rangel's long-delayed ethics trial will finally get under way. Each side will have an opportunity to present evidence and question witnesses before a bipartisan eight-member House ethics subcommittee, which will then vote individually on each of the thirteen ethics charges levied against Rangel. Ethics-committee lawyers will be acting as the prosecutors, while Rangel, who parted ways with his legal team a few weeks ago, will represent himself. Expect lots of long-winded, emotional soliloquies, and perhaps some in-trial Googling of legal tactics, since Rangel hasn't practiced law in 40 years. "It has lots of potential to be pathetic for Rangel and the committee," predicts Melanie Sloan, executive director of the ethics watchdog group CREW.

Charles Rangel ethics trial set to begin [Politico]

Update: Yup, it's a mess. New York's Chris Smith reports:

Congressman Charles Rangel walked out of his House ethics trial this morning and doesn’t plan to return. The 80-year-old Harlem congressman claims he’s out of money after paying his lawyers $1.6 million, and that the firm wouldn’t continue to defend him unless he coughed up another $1 million. Rangel’s finances are murky — which is one of the things that got him into this mess to begin with — but his fund-raising abilities took a big hit when he was forced to step down from the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means committee last March. The ethics trial is continuing without Rangel. It’s another sad echo of the end of the career of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Rangel’s predecessor, who was tossed out of Congress on ethics charges — though the Supreme Court eventually restored Powell to his seat. Rangel, by arguing that he’s being denied due process, may be trying to set up similar grounds for appeal.