WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday called ethics charges against Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel “very troubling” and said he hopes the longtime lawmaker can end his career with dignity. Several House Democrats went further, urging the New York congressman to resign.
“He’s somebody who’s at the end of his career,” Obama said in an interview that aired Friday on “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.” “I’m sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity. And my hope is that it happens.”
Obama praised the 20-term Rangel for serving his constituents well but called the more than one-dozen tax and disclosure charges against him “very troubling.”
It was hardly an endorsement for the veteran lawmaker, but fell short of the calls for resignation Rangel received on the eve of the House’s August recess. As House Democrats headed home, they wrestled with how to handle the matter in their districts ahead of the midterm elections.
Republicans, meanwhile, raced ahead with plans to make Rangel the face of corrupt Washington under the rule of Democrats who had vowed to clean up Congress.
A House panel on Thursday made public for the first time 13 charges of misusing his office and tax and disclosure violations against Rangel, 80. If Rangel and the ethics committee do not settle the case, it goes to a public trial this fall, at the height of an election season.
Democrats calling for Rangel’s resignation included Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho.
Democratic leaders are urging their members to cast the election as one about a choice between their party, which under Obama has overhauled health care and Wall Street, and a GOP-tea party combination that wants to roll back these accomplishments.