Rangel wary as panel prepares ethics charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lawyer for Rep. Charles Rangel negotiated a possible last-minute plea bargain today as the veteran New York congressman steeled himself for the disclosure of charges that he violated House rules.

"Sixty years ago I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and as a result I haven't had a bad day since," Rangel told reporters. "But today I have to reassess that statement."

Eight House lawmakers who will determine the former Ways and Means chairman's guilt or innocence will have their first meeting today. Democrats, fearful about the impact on their re-election prospects, will get their first look at the allegations.

In the frantic hours leading up to the meeting, Rangel's lawyer, Leslie Kiernan, talked to attorneys for the panel about how to avoid a trial for the 40-year veteran. That could only happen if Rangel negotiates a plea bargain, admitting to substantial violations, or resigns.

Punishment could range from a report criticizing his conduct to a reprimand or censure by the House, or a vote to expel him — which is highly unlikely. Any agreement would have to be approved by Rangel and ethics committee members

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