Obama hopes Rep. Rangel can leave "with dignity"

WASHINGTON Sat Jul 31, 2010 9:59am EDT

Rep. Charles Rangel (R) stands in front of the media after meeting of the Congessional Black Caucus with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, March 11, 2010. From L-R are: Rep. Hank Johnson and Rangel. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Rep. Charles Rangel (R) stands in front of the media after meeting of the Congessional Black Caucus with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, March 11, 2010. From L-R are: Rep. Hank Johnson and Rangel.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called ethics charges against Representative Charles Rangel "very troubling" on Friday and said he hoped the lawmaker could end his career "with dignity."

Democrats have urged the New York lawmaker, one of the most senior members of Congress and its former chief tax writer, to settle the charges to avoid a trial they fear could hurt them in congressional elections in November.

Obama's comments may be seen as indirect encouragement for Rangel to cut a deal or step down for the good of the Democratic Party. If he resigned, that would effectively end the congressional investigation.

"I think Charlie Rangel served a very long time and served his constituents very well, but these allegations are very troubling," Obama said in an interview with CBS television.

"He is somebody who is at the end of his career, 80 years old. I'm sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity, and my hope is that happens," Obama said.

Rangel faces 13 counts of violating House of Representatives ethics rules, including failure to report rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic and use of a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign committee.

He stepped down in March as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee after an ethics panel, in a separate case, admonished him for corporate-sponsored trips in 2007 and 2008 in violation of House gifts rules.

Rangel reached a tentative plea agreement on ethics charges on Thursday, but Republicans may block the proposed deal and demand a trial.

Democrats won control of the House in 2006, promising to rid the chamber of corruption after a series of Republican ethical problems, including an influence-peddling scandal that resulted in prison time for a top Capitol Hill lobbyist.

Republicans have seized on the charges against Rangel as evidence that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats failed to follow through on their promise.

(Editing by Xavier Briand.)

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