In just a little under 90 minutes, Rep. Charles Rangel will have to defend himself in the first House ethics trial in eight years.  Democrats have attempted to get Rangel to agree to a deal that will save them from a nationally-covered hearing on Democratic corruption, but at least as of now, Rangel hasn’t agreed to fall on his sword.  The Hill reports that Rangel thinks he can beat the rap:

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) is ready to lay out his case to the public and thinks he can win, barring a last-minute deal in his showdown with the House ethics committee.

“[Thursday] is D-Day and he’s digging in for a fight,” a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said. “He has 40 years invested in this place, and he’s not about to go out this way if he can help it.”

Rangel said as much himself this week as his lawyers negotiated with ethics committee aides over a settlement that could allow him and his party to avoid a high-profile public trail. Rangel has called the ethics committee action against him a “public lynching” and insisted he would rather tell his side of the story than admit guilt.

After delivering a defiant but upbeat lunchtime speech to the Urban League on Wednesday, Rangel told a throng of reporters trailing his every move that it would be a relief to finally tell his side of the story.

A relief to Rangel, perhaps.  It’s no relief to Democrats, who see this as an advertisement for Republicans in the midterm elections.

It’s not going to get any easier, either.  Rangel’s use of the phrase “public lynching” is no accident.  He needs the CBC at his back in order to ensure that he doesn’t get expelled from Congress, and so far the CBC has signaled that they will stand by Rangel.  Couching his dire situation in references to race is part of Rangel’s strategy to keep Democratic leadership from supporting expulsion.  It’s worked in the past; the CBC kept William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson in the House and even got him a committee assignment while being indicted on corruption charges, a move that eventually cost Democrats the seat from New Orleans.

At least for now, Rangel doesn’t face any such indictment on criminal charges, but just the ethics charges in the House.  If Nancy Pelosi couldn’t fight the CBC on Jefferson, she’s not going to let Rangel get expelled.  And that means that the House will have to come up with something short of expulsion despite the rather obvious violations in which Rangel engaged — and that plays right into the GOP’s hands.

Can Pelosi convince Rangel to retire before the hearing starts?  We’ll soon see — and if not, we’ll soon see the hearing.

Update: Or maybe not, as WCBS TV reports now:

New York Congressman Charles Rangel has reportedly cut a deal to admit to ethical wrongdoing and avoid a potentially humiliating public trial.

Harlem friends of Rangel tell CBS 2 they have been told that the details could be unveiled when the House Ethics Committee meets Thursday afternoon.

So I guess we can cancel Rangelmas for today, but if Rangel stays in the House, the GOP will be celebrating it every day between now and November.

Update II: Rangelmas back on?

New York Democrat Charles Rangel says there’s no deal yet to settle his ethics case and avoid a trial on charges of violating standards of conduct.

Rangel told reporters outside his office, “Until someone tells me there’s a deal, there isn’t.”

Looks like the trial’s still on.  (via the Boss Emeritus)