Rep. Charlie Rangel -- facing an Ethics Committee hearing Thursday -- and his lawyers are working directly with "career professional staff" at the Ethics Committee and not House colleagues, Capitol Hill aides said.
Those staffers are "dually appointed," meaning both political parties appointed them to the staff and many are former prosecutors. No members of Congress are officially negotiating with Rangel and his lawyers.
Aides say the work of any settlement of violations is walled off from the elected members serving on the "Standards of Official Conduct" Committee. Any deal struck on the Rangel charges would take effect only when accepted by the committee with a majority vote including both Democrats and Republicans. Aides say they would expect a unanimous vote to resolve the Rangel case -- though that is not required.
Before the report on alleged violations was filed last week, the four House members who acted as the investigative subcommittee worked as a "cell within the ethics committee." They could not share any of their information on Rangel with other Ethics Committee members. The secrecy requirements are specifically spelled out in the adopted rules of the committee. All that means is the chair and ranking member learned of the specific counts against Rangel last Thursday.
Aides say, "The ball is in Rangel's court." The New York Democrat has three options: Agree to a settlement much like a plea agreement, let it go to trial, or resign.
If Rangel were to resign -- and there is no indication he is considering that -- the Ethics Committee's work ends immediately, because its jurisdiction covers only current serving members. The case would be dead.