[Video below.] Rep. Charles Rangel drew a line in the sand this morning at the state office building in Harlem, surrounded by about 20 supporters holding campaign signs, insisting he was done talking about the House ethics case against him as he focuses on his Sept. 14 primary race.”I’m not asking for leniency,” he said, adding that he does want House probers “to give me a hearing.”
He recommended that reporters direct all questions toward probers in the future and basically said he is all-systems-go on his race for another term against four primary opponents, including against Adam Clayton Powell IV, the son of the man Rangel wrested the seat from in 1970.
He also declined to revisit his now-infamous House floor speech, saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – what happens on the House floor stays on the House floor.”
He voluntarily brought up the people asking him to resign and former Mayor David Dinkins’s now-infamous middle-finger-flip to a rowdy protester outside the congressman’s birthday party Wednesday night, saying he “really expressed my view best last night. … I can’t find a better way to say it.”
He said he had to defend himself against the “vicious” and “vile” charges of “corruption,” which he said hadn’t been proved anywhere.
He also said, “There’s no question in my mind there are people who can more than adequately represent this great and diversified district. The problem is, none of them is running in this race.”
When a reporter started to ask about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who is also facing a House ethics trial, he cut the question off, saying last he’d checked she wasn’t registered in his district.
He dismissed the idea that his own problems would weigh anyone down.
“I refuse to believe that I’m either that important or infamous that my problems are going to interfere with any good person getting elected,” Rangel said.
He laced into the press for the coverage of his case, suggesting people weren’t even bothering to read his defense and telling them to go to his website.
And he also had a choice response about President Obama’s suggestion that he end his career “with dignity.”
“If he says to retire with dignity there’s no way in the world for a president and a constitutional lawyer to say that dignity is not fighting for your rights to prove that you’re not guilty of the charges,” Rangel said. “That’s dignity, not cutting a deal, not cutting and running.”
He also said that it was important to remind junior members, in the wake of his case, that “a public official has a much higher standard ….carlessness and negligence is no excuse.”
In a classic Rangel line, he added, “Now, I’m not against backdoor dealings that have dignity. but if that’s not possible then let’s get it all out.”
Later, he read to kids at the Ryan Health Center at 99th Street and Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side, his first real stump stop of the campaign.
Asked about some House members giving away money he’d donated to them, he quipped that he wished they’d given it back to his campaign instead. His campaign has been forking over the cost of his legal fees.
Click below to watch: