WASHINGTON – Representative Charles Rangel's lawyers are trying to determine if a deal can be reached to settle ethics charges against him and avoid a trial that could hurt his Democratic Party just before the November election, party aides said on Saturday.
The aides said Rangel's lawyers are talking with the House of Representatives ethics committee, which announced charges against the 80-year-old congressman on Thursday after an earlier breakdown in negotiations.
The charges against Rangel are set to be disclosed next week in preparation for a public trial before the committee in September.
A possible settlement could include Rangel admitting to at least some charges in return for a public admonishment or censure rather than expulsion from Congress, aides said.
"But I don't know if they will reach an agreement. So far, he has been very unwilling," one aide said of the defiant Rangel, who has long insisted he has done nothing wrong.
The aide said pressure will likely mount on Rangel to avoid a trial when House Democrats return to work on Monday.
"Someone will talk to Charlie, but we don't know if he will listen," the aide said.
Said another aide: "It could get ugly. A lot of the old timers want to stick by him, but a lot of younger members are sick of this."
Democrats won control of the House from Republicans in November 2006, largely as the result of a series of scandals that rocked the then-majority party.
Republicans have seized on the charges against Rangel as evidence that Democrats have fallen short of their pledge to rid the chamber of corruption.
Democrats now hold the House, 255 to 178, with two vacancies. Republicans are expected to make big gains in November, and are seen as having a chance to even take it back.
Rangel stepped down in March as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after the ethics panel, in a separate case, admonished him for corporate-sponsored trips in 2007 and 2008 to the Caribbean in violation of the chamber's gift rules.
The ethics committee -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- has been examining for nearly two years a number of other matters involving Rangel, including his use of a rent-controlled apartment and his fund-raising for the Charles Rangel Center for Public Service in New York.
Rangel, who had been a key player in President Barack Obama's overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system and crackdown on Wall Street, is running for re-election to a 21st, two-year term.
At a news conference at his New York office on Friday, Rangel made it clear he had no plans to resign and that he intended to defend himself and asked constituents to stick by him.
"I'm in the kitchen and I'm not walking out," Rangel said.
One of his Democratic challengers, however, Jonathan Tasini, has begun an online petition urging Rangel to end his re-election campaign.
The petition reads, in part: "Charles Rangel, Your Legacy Should Not Be Speaker John Boehner." Boehner is the Republican who would become House speaker if Democrats lose the chamber.
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