Rep. Maxine Waters went on the offense with her defense against three ethics charges Friday morning with a 90-minute Capitol Hill press conference.
Waters move to try her case in the court of public opinion comes three days after former Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel took to the floor in a defiant speech defending himself against 13 alleged breeches of House rules. Both members are expected to have rare open ethics trials before the Committee on Standards and Official Conduct this fall. The leadership has remained noticeably mum on both cases, only saying they trust the process and that they hoped members would stick to the process: ie, don’t go off holding press conferences and speeches on the floor — a message that seems to have gotten a bit lost.
Though, Waters’s presentation was calmer and more professional, including a power point presentation by her chief of staff and grandson Mikael Moore, its purpose was similar to Rangel’s rant. “They have lost the support of your colleagues in the Democratic Caucus. They have two choices, go quietly with dignity (they were given that choice long ago) or go with lots of sound and fury, appealing to the court of public opinion,” says James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential studies. “It is politically risky and shows they are desperate.”
Rangel and Waters’s intent was enter the long August recess with the story spinning their way. The results were mixed: Rangel did himself more harm than good with his rambling, petulant rant. Waters poked some credible holes in the timeline of events surrounding her case.