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Rangel Scrambling to Make Deal on Ethics Charges

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July 22, 2010: U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel speaks with Chief of Staff George Henry shortly after a congressional investigative panel accused Rangel of ethics violations. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON -- Embattled Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel was meeting with the head of the House ethics committee and other top Democrats amid rumors he may try to work out a deal rather than face a full vetting of the charges he is now facing. 

A settlement would mean Rangel must admit he committed some ethical misconduct. 

"This has been a nightmare," Rangel said Tuesday about the ethics controversy. "I wish this never happened."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday that "everyone would like for the Rangel issue to go away" and that the ethics process with Rangel is not a pleasant one.

Rangel would not respond to requests for information about the investigation, citing the "sensitive circumstances" of the probe. He added to reporters: "You will not be able to frame any question, no matter how good you think you are, (to which) I will respond."

Asked whether there was a deal, Rangel said, "Not that I know of."

Asked whether he was trying to avoid a trial, Rangel said, "No. I'm looking forward to almost two years of waiting for an opportunity to respond to alleged violations so I won't have to be saying no comment, no comment, no comment."

Rangel said he is not in active contact with his lawyers as they negotiate with Ethics committee staff.

Ethics committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren has been preparing to launch a rare, public ethics inquiry on Thursday into alleged misdeeds by the New York Democrat. 

Lofgren will chair an "adjudicatory subcommittee" that will present its case against Rangel. An investigative panel reported last week that it had found ethics violations by Rangel.

For nearly two years, the ethics committee has probed Rangel on a host of issues, ranging from tax evasion to improper use of congressional stationery to raise money for a school of public affairs in the congressman's name at City College of New York.

Rangel met with Lofgren on Monday night and sought closed-door counsel from Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a special assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"I think he's in the process of trying to determine the best course forward," said Van Hollen. "I was presenting him with my observations."

A settlement would spare him an embarrassing ethics trial and would be a relief for other Democrats, who fear that a dragged-out ethics proceeding during the fall election campaign would hurt their ability to maintain their House majority.

At least two Democrats are trying to distance themselves from Rangel as the process plays out.

"Now that the investigation is complete and provided the facts are as alleged, I think it's clear that he should resign from Congress," said Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho.

"I didn't know him when I accepted money from him," added Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa., who has returned campaign donations. Dahlkemper said it's a "common practice" for party leaders to "give money to people who they think will be successful. So politically it could become an issues, but I decided to take care of it before it did."

Rangel said it's a lawmaker's prerogative to decide whether to return contributions.

Fox News' Chad Pergram and Shannon Bream contributed to this report.