Rep. Chris Collins was just another Republican backbencher until he became the first member of Congress to endorse Trump and join Trump's inner circle. Now he's been indicted for insider trading.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who has described himself as Trump's "liaison" to Congress, has been arrested and charged with insider trading. He turned himself in to the FBI on Wednesday morning.
Over the last few years, Collins has gone from a relatively unknown Republican congressman to an influential figure with Trump's ear on key legislative matters. He is in the Trump inner circle like few other politicians in America.
Collins surrendered to the FBI on the charges stemming from alleged securities fraud. Two others, including Collins' son, Cameron Collins, have also been charged in relation to the alleged crimes.
The grand jury indictment says that Collins passed private information to his son so he could use that to make stock trades of Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company. Collins is on the board of directors for the company and is one its largest shareholders, with nearly 17 percent of the stock.
The indictment alleges that Collins arranged the illegal stock trades through phone calls he made while attending the Congressional Picnic at the White House.
The sweetheart arrangement has also been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
In a statement, Collins' attorneys said they will "mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name" and said they are "confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated."
Collins is closely aligned with Trump.
He was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump's campaign for president. That decision brought him deep into the Trump rotation. At the Republican National Convention in 2016, Collins was in the Trump family's private box and offered a second to affirm Trump's nomination.
Collins told the crowd on that night that "Donald Trump is not merely a candidate, Donald Trump is a movement."
Collins co-chaired Trump's House Leadership Committee during the campaign.
During the presidential transition process, Collins worked as Trump's go-between with Speaker Paul Ryan. Collins said he suggested himself for the role directly to Trump.
"I said I’m going to stay in Congress. But I think I can be a bit of a liaison, if you will, of members, kind of making sure the administration knows exactly what’s going on," Collins said at the time.
When Ryan ran for re-election as speaker at the start of the congressional session, Collins seconded his nomination and said it was "a sign of Trump’s support for Mr. Ryan."
Collins was described by his hometown newspaper The Democrat & Chronicle as "one of Trump’s top defenders in more than 200 national television appearances." The paper also noted that thanks to his Trump loyalty, Collins has gone from being an undistinguished Republican backbencher to "a partner to the president."
That partnership has involved repeated shilling on Trump's behalf, using his congressional position to defend Trump and attack those who have exposed his administration.
In one instance, Collins claimed that an aviation safety law passed by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress was something Trump was owed "a debt of gratitude" for.
Collins defended the Republican tax scam that handed over millions to the ultra-wealthy by responding to voter disapproval of the measure with the retort, "Who cares?"
In fact, Collins even openly admitted that he was pursuing the extremely unbalanced legislation because his "donors are basically saying, 'get it done or don't ever call me again.'"
The Collins arrest continues the pattern of those who are deeply involved with Trump also being tainted by criminality.
Now Trump's self-described "liaison" has added his chapter to the long tale of corruption.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.