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House investigators back Rangel reprimand

From Deirdre Walsh, CNN
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Rep. Rangel: On 'the list'
  • NEW: Attorney says Rangel "misspoke" on the possibility of a reprimand
  • Key congressman: The House ethics committee recommends a reprimand for Rep. Rangel
  • A reprimand is considered a light punishment
  • Rangel is accused of 13 violations of House rules

Washington (CNN) -- House ethics committee investigators have recommended that Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York be reprimanded, according to one of those investigators, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas.

A reprimand would be a relatively light punishment, compared with censure and expulsion. The recommendation was made to the ethics committee before Thursday's public hearing detailing charges against Rangel.

The full committee and the House would have to approve any sanction against Rangel.

Asked about the recommendation, Rangel initially told CNN on Friday that it's "untrue." Rangel's attorney, however, later said that the embattled congressman "misspoke" and the possibility of a reprimand "was one of a number of issues addressed in settlement discussions."

The committee has accused Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, of 13 violations of House rules involving alleged financial wrongdoing and harming the credibility of Congress.

Video: Rangel: 'Rough period for me'

Among other things, Rangel has been charged with using his influence to solicit donations for a college policy center bearing his name from corporate heads and others with business before the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that Rangel chaired until forced to give up the leadership position earlier this year.

Other charges involve alleged income tax and financial disclosure violations, as well as improper use of government mail service and letterhead.

An ethics committee trial of Rangel is still set to be held, most likely in September, barring a settlement between Rangel and the committee members.

A contrite-sounding Rangel said Thursday that he may have been "overzealous" in serving the public, but took some comfort that the allegations involved no "corruption" or "self-dealing."

"I can't make an excuse for serious violations, but I can have an explanation of my intent," he said. "And to large degree that's what my life has been all about -- intent."

According to the specific charges, Rangel allegedly failed to report more than $600,000 on financial disclosure forms, improperly used a rent-subsidized apartment as a campaign office for over a decade and failed to report rental income on both a home in the Dominican Republic and a residence in Manhattan.

An investigative subcommittee report on Rangel's dealings also detailed a lengthy series of meetings the congressman held with business leaders to raise funds for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Policy at the City College of New York. His repeated attempts to woo potential donors violated the House's solicitation and gift ban, the report said.

The congressman's "acceptance of favors and benefits from donors to the Rangel Center ... might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties," the report concluded, adding that the "accumulation of (Rangel's) actions reflected poorly on the institution of the House and, thereby, brought discredit to the House."

In a July 28 response to committee investigators, Rangel's lawyers argued that some of the cited infractions were unintended in his effort to help the college.

The committee previously admonished Rangel for violating rules on receiving gifts. Specifically, it found that the congressman violated House gift rules by accepting reimbursement payments for travel to conferences in the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.

In the days leading up to Thursday's hearing, Rangel had said he welcomed the completion of a two-year investigation by the ethics committee so that he could finally respond to specific accusations against him.

CNN's Brianna Keilar and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report