Trump’s First Congressional Fan to Plead Guilty to Insider Trading

MANHATTAN (CN) – When reports first emerged suggesting that Rep. Chris Collins abused his office through his pharmaceutical industry connections, the New York Republican launched into familiar anti-press broadsides.

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, right, sits next to President Donald Trump during a Feb. 16, 2017, meeting with House Republicans in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. A New York Republican, Collins was indicted on Aug. 8, 2018, by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on charges that he used inside information about a biotechnology company to make illicit stock trades. Collins’ son and a family acquaintance were also charged. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Rebranding his local paper the “Fake Buffalo News,” Collins cast the allegations against him as a conspiracy to stop him from “fighting for President Trump’s pro-jobs agenda.” Collins prided himself as the first member of Congress to endorse Trump for president, and he tried to dodge his scandal with a strategy out of the #MAGA playbook — by attacking the press and prosecutors.

On Monday morning, however, it was confirmed: Rep. Collins will admit that he gamed health care markets.

Federal prosecutors first charged Collins a little more than a year ago with tipping friends and family about failed clinical testing of a multiple sclerosis drug developed by Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotechnology company for which the congressman was a board member.

Details in the indictment suggested that Collins made at least one of his illegal tips at the White House Congressional Picnic, CBS News reported at the time.

According to the indictment, the congressman’s son Cameron Collins avoided more than $570,000 losses after he sold 1.39 million shares of Innate, while Stephen Zarsky, the father of the son’s fiancée at the time, avoided $143,000 in losses.

The trio had pleaded not guilty a second indictment earlier this month, days after losing a battle to suppress the congressman’s private emails.

During pretrial proceedings, the congressman’s attorneys conceded that the House of Representatives has no formal guidance about members using private emails for official business.

Collins, who tried to keep his own emails from the jury, once had strong views about Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails.

“Well, on the character issue, two-thirds of the American public know that Hillary Clinton’s a liar,” he told CNN in October 2016. “She can’t be trusted, and now the two faces of Hillary Clinton are coming out through WikiLeaks.”

While the congressman is expected to change his plea Tuesday, his son and Zarsky plan are set to do the same Thursday.

Zarsky’s attorney Mauro Wolfe declined to comment, and attorneys for the Collins family did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment.

Congressional investigators had been on the House Republican’s trail longer.

In October 2017, the Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” Collins shared nonpublic information about Innate stock, in violation of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.

Collins’ 27th Congressional District in upstate New York voted for Trump by a 60-35 margin and narrowly re-elected him this past November despite the criminal charges filed months earlier.

The congressman’s spokeswoman Jennifer Brown declined to comment Monday on what she called “this ongoing legal matter,” but The Buffalo News confirmed this afternoon that the congressman will resign.

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