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Trump’s first congressional supporter charged with securities fraud and lying to federal agents

Drain the swamp.

COLLINS SPEAKS AT A TRUMP RALLY IN APRIL 2016. (CREDIT: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
COLLINS SPEAKS AT A TRUMP RALLY IN APRIL 2016. (CREDIT: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump’s earliest congressional supporter, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), was arrested on Wednesday by the FBI and charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to investigators.

According to an indictment filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Collins engaged in insider trading of shares for a company called Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited (“Innate”) that trades on the Australian Securities Exchange. Collins was a member of Innate’s board of directors and one of the company’s largest shareholders.

The indictment accuses Collins of passing nonpublic information about a failed trial of a drug meant to treat multiple sclerosis to his son, Cameron, who in turn passed it along to another defendant and a number of co-conspirators before word of the results became public information.

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While Collins was at the White House for a congressional picnic on June 22, 2017, he received an email from Innate’s CEO alerting him that the drug had unexpectedly failed its trial. Collins quickly called his son, and the two exchanged a string of missed calls over the course of the following minutes before they finally connected.

In total, the insider trades allowed Collins and his co-conspirators “to avoid over $768,000 in losses that they would have otherwise incurred if they had sole their stock in Innate after the Drug Trial results became public,” the indictment alleges.

The indictment also accuses Collins of lying to federal agents.

ThinkProgress discussed the controversy swirling around Collins and Immune last August, at a time when the House Ethics Committee was investigating him.

Just this week, leaders of the House Ethics Committee extended the deadline on their investigation of Rep. Chris Collins’ (R-NY) personal investment practices. Collins made headlines four months ago when it was revealed that he had written legislation that would benefit an Australian pharmaceutical company called Innate Immunotherapeutics, in which he held interest. Other Republican members of Congress who bought into the company include Rep. Mike Conway (R-TX), Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). Long and Mullin sit with Collins on the House Health Subcommittee, which oversees the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Office of Congressional Ethics subsequently found “substantial reason” to conclude Collins engaged in wrongdoing.

Collins endorsed Trump in 2016 and his been one of the president’s most reliable defenders.

In recent months, Collins has been publicly calling for special counsel Robert Mueller to end his investigation of the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia and related misconduct.

Last year, Collins argued that he didn’t think “any elected official” should have to release their tax returns.

Following news of Collins’ arrest, his lawyers released a statement saying they “are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated.”