ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
Rep. Charles Rangel sought to save his job, his reputation, and his dignity with his defiant speech on the floor of the House of Representatives today.But his rambling and impromptu 37-minute address only served to further strain ties between the New York Democrat and top House leaders. And by making clear that he intends to stay in the House while the ethics charges against him play out, Rangel virtually guaranteed that a public trial will play out in the weeks leading up to the November elections. Several of Rangel’s friends and allies in the House tried to talk him out of using the House floor to deliver his latest message, according to Democratic aides. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a terse statement after the speech this afternoon, saying that the ethics committee “is the proper arena for ethics matters to be discussed.” But Rangel told colleagues that he wanted to directly address his fellow House members. In addition, his words from this afternoon can’t be used against him in the ethics committee or any other proceeding, since the Constitution protects “speech or debate” made by members of Congress in session from being “questioned in any other place.” Democrats offered polite applause for Rangel, a 20-term Democrat and decorated Korean War veteran, when his speech came to a close. But that was far more a statement of personal respect than it was an affirmation of his approach to the ethics charges facing him, according to several House Democratic members and aides. Rangel’s performance further diminishes the chance of a settlement that would avoid the public spectacle of an ethics trial. If Rangel’s ultimate goal is, as he said today, to regain a measure of dignity as the end of his career approaches, he may have lost his last best chance at that today.