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House panel votes to expel Traficant

Rep. Jim Traficant
Rep. Jim Traficant  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House ethics committee unanimously recommended Thursday that Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, should be expelled from the House for ethics violations relating to his bribery, racketeering and tax evasion convictions.

A vote by the full House on the recommendation is expected by early next week. A two-thirds vote is needed to expel.

If expelled, Traficant, 61, would become the second member of Congress to be kicked out since the Civil War.

The unanimous vote by the 10-member House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct came hours after a defiant Traficant appeared before the committee and urged members to stay any decision on his punishment and to hear from witnesses who could testify on his behalf.

"Otherwise, I will break out of prison and I'll make a neck tie out of some these bureaucrats," he said.

Dressed in a white denim suit with a blue denim shirt, Traficant warned his colleagues they were making a mistake and vowed to take his fight to the floor.

"You could possibly expel a member that could get a new trial, and makes you look like a bunch of fools," he said. "If I am to be expelled under these circumstances, then God save the republic and God save the Constitution."

On the verge of expulsion from Congress, U.S. Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, accuses House ethics panel lawyers of lying and the federal government of having a vendetta against him. CNN's Candy Crowley reports. (July 18)

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Profile: U.S. Representative Jim Traficant 

At another point, the nine-term congressman said he is a patriot who loves his country, but "I hate the government."

"If you expel me, I will go down in history as an expelled member -- but you know what? I have a very clear conscience. I am proud to be an American," he said.

He said he was the victim of a government vendetta and a vicious press "that has beat the hell out of me for years."

"Many of them are so dumb they could throw themselves at the ground and miss," Traficant said of members of the news media.

"I would ask the committee not to ask me any questions, because I've got to go to the bathroom. I'm disgusted, busted, can't be trusted."

Earlier in the day, a subcommittee of the ethics panel found Traficant guilty of all but one of 10 counts of violations it considered.

The violations result from his conviction in April of 10 federal counts that included bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. Prosecutors have recommended he serve 7.25 years in prison. Traficant is appealing the conviction.

Congressional leaders had urged Traficant to resign before his ethics probe reached the stage it has.

Throughout the hearing, Traficant appeared to make light of the situation.

"I will take with me a file, a chisel, a knife, I will try and get some major explosives, try to fight my way out," Traficant said of the possibility of his incarceration.

"And then when I get out I will grab a sword like Maximus Meridius Demidius and as a Gladiator I will stab people in the crotch." Maximus Meridius was the gladiator Russell Crowe portrayed in the movie "Gladiator."

Traficant has complained about a government vendetta since he beat the FBI in a bribery case in Columbus, Ohio, in 1983, also while defending himself. Traficant, who was a county sheriff at the time, used the victory to propel himself to Congress in 1984.

He is from Youngstown and represents that city and environs in the northeastern part of Ohio.

The only other House member to be kicked out since the Civil War was Rep. Michael Myers, D-Pennsylvania, who was expelled in 1980 for accepting money from undercover FBI agents.


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