Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET
A public trial into ethics charges against New York Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel began today. Lawmakers cast the proceedings as a necessary exercise to regain the public's trust in Congress.
The 20-term representative is charged with 13 "very serious" allegations, said Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, the ranking Republican in the House Ethics Committee. The charges are related to allegations Rangel inappropriately solicited donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York, left errors and omissions on his financial dicslosure forms, failed to report and pay taxes on rental income for a beach villa, and inappropriately allowed his campaign committees to use a rent subsized apartment.
Rangel attempted to reach a settlement with the committee to avoid a humiliating public trial, but no deal was reached. The start of trial now marks the culmination of a two-year investigation into the charges against him.An ethics committee investigator said the case could still be settled, CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson reports.
If the lawmakers on the committee --- which includes an equal number of Democrats and Republicans -- find Rangel guilty, punishment could range from a report criticizing his conduct to a reprimand or censure by the House to a vote to expel him.
"We have an obligation to Mr. Rangel so that he has his day in court, so to speak," McCaul said as the trial opened. "We also have an obligation to the American people to protect the integrity and accountability of the House."
He added that given that just 11 percent of Americans have a positive perception of Congress, there is added pressure to ensure the trial is "fair, open and conducted in a strictly nonpartisan manner."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said this Congress is ushering in a new era of accountability, McCaul noted.
"I agree," he said. "Let us begin today."
Committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren of California also said the committee has a responsibility to rebuild the public's trust in Congress.
In his 40 years in office, Rangel has wielded substantial power. Until March he served as head of the Ways and Means Committee, where he oversaw policy on taxes, trade, health care, Medicare and Social Security. He stepped down from that position, however, after the ethics committee admonished him for a separate ethics incident -- the committee said he should have known that two trip he took to the Caribbean for conferences were paid for with corporate money.
"Sixty years ago I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and as a result I haven't had a bad day since," Rangel told reporters this morning. "But today I have to reassess that statement."
The scandal has prompted at least three Democrats to call for Rangel's resignation.
"I think as members of Congress we have duty to hold each other to a high standard,"today. "I'm not happy with what's been discovered by the Ethics Committee and I think he should step down."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this morning that the political chips will fall where they may and there must be accountabilty, CBS News' Jill Jackson reports.
House Republican Leader John Boehner said this morning that "this is a sad moment for our Congress." He tried to cast the issues as larger than Rangel.
"It's about Speaker Pelosi and her promise to drain the swamp," he said, as Jackson reports.
Update: Rangel submitted a 32-page response to the charges that said, "The Statement of Alleged Violation ('SAV') in this case is deeply flawed in its factual premises and legal theories... The undisputed evidence in the record--assembled by the Investigative Subcommittee over its nearly two-year investigation--is that Congressman Rangel did not dispense any political favors, that he did not intentionally violate any law, rule or regulation, and that he did not misuse his public office for private gain."Statement of Alleged Violations
Documents Related to Statement of Alleged Violations
Statement of Charles B. Rangel in Response to the Statement of Alleged Violation