After 40 years as a Congressman, Charlie Rangel will stand trial on 13 counts of ethics violations after his attorneys failed to negotiate a settlement with the House Ethics Committee. Such trials are rare, the last being held in 2002.
It also increases the possibility that Rangel's fellow Democrats will call for his resignation. If found guilty, he faces everything from expulsion to censure. Either way, Rangel's legacy has been scarred because of the charges.
A somber-sounding Rangel could not hide his emotions. "Sixty years ago, I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and have said that I haven't had a bad day since," Rangel said. "But after today, I may have to revise that statement."
The trial and charges represent a remarkable turn of events for a man regarded as one of the deans of Democratic politics. Rangel coveted the chair of the House Ways and Means committee and waited decades to get it before these charges forced him to step aside.
Rangel is being investigated for his use of four rent-controlled apartments in Harlem, using Congressional letterhead to raise money for a New York City College center for public service bearing his name, not reporting income and assets and preserving a tax loophole for a group that donated to the City College center.
Democrats have been pushing for a settlement to avoid the spectacle of a trial months before the November mid-term elections. Some have begun calls for Rangel's resignation.
Rangel was apparently unwilling to admit to the terms of a deal which would have required him to admit to multiple and serious ethics violations.
A Republican ethics committee member called the charges "very serious.'
"Mr. Rangel...was given opportunities to negotiate a settlement under the investigation phase," said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) a member of the ethics committe. "We are now in the trial phase...For Mr. Rangel, these proceedings present a fair and public opportunity to be heard before his peers."
Still, many in Rangel's Harlem district have maintained they will support him because they believe the charges are overblown. He faces a primary challenge in September but many believe he will be re-elected.
Some also think the damage to Democrats will be limited.
"I think it's a sad and isolated case that will have a limited impact," Rep. Gerald E. Connolly told the Washington Post. "I don't think it's going to be a dispositive issue in the election."
"I was at several festivals this weekend in conservative-leaning counties, and I didn't get asked a single time about it," Rep. Tom Perriello told the Washington Post.