Drain the Swamp? Trump’s First Congressional Backer Just Got Charged With Stuffing His Son’s Pockets

Trump loyalist Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was indicted on Wednesday morning on charges of insider trading. The indictment — which was introduced by the Department of Justice in the Southern District of New York — also names his son, Cameron Collins, as a defendant.

The 30-page indictment noted that while Chris Collins was representing New York’s 27th Congressional District, he was also on the board of directors of an Australia-based biotech company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, and that he controlled 16.8 percent of the stock. The prosecution claimed that Chris Collins gave nonpublic information to his son so that his son could make timely trades.

Specifically, when a multiple sclerosis drug that Innate was developing failed tests, Chris Collins called his son, and the government said that he told Cameron Collins that the product had failed. In an only-in-Washington twist, the 68-year-old lawmaker was at the White House Congressional Picnic when he allegedly tipped his son off about the poor results.

Once the company admitted publicly that its drug had not passed the tests, its stock tanked — but not before Cameron Collins was able to dump almost 1.4 million shares of the stock and, the government alleged, avoid a loss of $570,900.

In response to the charges, Chris Collins’ lawyers issued the following statement:

“We will answer the charges filed against Congressman Collins in Court and will mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name. It is notable that even the government does not allege that Congressman Collins traded a single share of Innate Therapeutics stock. We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated.”

The government also alleged that Cameron Collins told a number of people about the failed tests and that the other shareholders managed to avoid losses ranging from over $22,000 to $680.

Prosecutors noted that Chris Collins’ “shares were held in Australia and thus subject to the Australian trading halt” — the Australians had put a hold on the Innate stock in anticipation of the test results.

Chris Collins was the first congressman to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential run, all the way back in February 2016 when he told CNN that “we need a chief executive, not a chief politician.”

And while other Republicans have lowered their eyes at the president’s Twitter antics, Collins has gone all in. After a particularly blistering Trump tweetstorm last year, Collins said that “the president does have a sense of humor,” later adding that “he’s just a fun guy.”

Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

Of course, it’s not uncommon for elected officials to own stock in companies, but Chris Collins had come under scrutiny before for his role on the Innate board of directors. He was even investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics for his role in the company.

The Daily Beast noted that Chris Collins authored language in a bill that would favor Innate’s stock and that Tom Price, who once ran Trump’s Health and Human Services Department, also owned stock in the company.

The district that Chris Collins represents is wedged between Rochester and Buffalo, and Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis once tweeted that he overheard Collins tell somebody on a phone call, “Do you know how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo the past few months?”

Chris and Cameron Collins are currently both in federal custody and are expected to see a courtroom Wednesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.

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