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Rep. Chris Collins resigns ahead of guilty plea on insider trading charges

Rep. Chris Collins, who was indicted on insider trading charges in August, won re-election to his seat Tuesday.
Rep. Chris Collins, who was indicted on insider trading charges in August, won re-election to his seat Tuesday.

Rep. Chris Collins (NY-27), is resigning from Congress ahead of an expected guilty plea in a federal insider trading case against him. Collins submitted his resignation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday, although the resignation will not take effect until the House meets in a pro forma session Tuesday.

He is expected to plead guilty in an insider trading case accusing him of leaking confidential information in an urgent phone call made from a White House picnic, according to court records filed Monday. 

Collins' district includes all of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, and Livingston counties and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara, and Ontario counties. Collins was among the first members of Congress to endorse President Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

It would be up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to set a special election to fill the seat. The last time a special election was needed locally was when Rep. Louise Slaughter died in March 2018. The governor waited until August 20, 2018 to announce a special election for Slaughter's 25th Congressional District seat, which took place on Election Day 2018. Voters had to vote twice, first to elect someone to finish Slaughter's term and then to elect someone to the seat for a full term starting in January 2019. Voters elected Democrat Joe Morelle in both elections. 

If the governor decides to hold a special election, WBFO in Buffalo reports that there are already a field of candidates that are interested in running. On the Republican side, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, Iraq war veteran and Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia, state senators Chris Jacobs and Robert Ortt and attorney Beth Parlato are rumored to have interest. On the Democratic side, Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who challenged Collins in 2018, is exploring another run at the seat. Various political indexes show the district leaning Republican.

A federal judge in Manhattan has scheduled a hearing for Collins to enter a guilty plea to unspecified charges in the case Tuesday afternoon. A similar hearing has been scheduled Thursday for the congressman's son, Cameron Collins. 

Collins had been scheduled to go to trial next year on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI. Prosecutors accused him of sharing non-public information from a biopharmaceutical company with his son, allowing Cameron Collins and another man to avoid nearly $800,000 in stock losses.

The case, filed in August of 2018, initially caused the 69-year-old Collins to drop a reelection bid, but he restarted his campaign a month later as Republican leaders were deliberating who would replace him on the ballot.

At the time he said the "stakes are too high to allow the radical left to take control of this seat in Congress"

The charges stem from Collins' business ties with Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd., a biotechnology company headquartered in Sydney, Australia. He was the company's largest shareholder, with nearly 17% of its shares, and sat on its board.

According to the indictment, Collins was attending the Congressional Picnic at the White House on June 22, 2017, when he received an email from the company's chief executive saying that a trial of a drug the company developed to treat multiple sclerosis was a clinical failure.

Collins responded to the email saying: "Wow. Makes no sense. How are these results even possible???" the indictment said.

It said he then called his son, Cameron Collins, and, after several missed calls, they spoke for more than six minutes.

The next morning, according to the indictment, Cameron Collins began selling his shares, unloading enough over a two-day period to avoid $570,900 in losses before a public announcement of the drug trial results. After the announcement, the company's stock price plunged 92%.

Cameron Collins is accused of passing along the information to his fiancee's father, so he could also dump his stock.

Statement from State Senator for the 62nd District, Rob Ortt (R - Niagara and Orleans counties):

“It is vital that we continue to have a strong, conservative voice representing the residents of New York’s 27th Congressional District and elect a candidate who will defend President Trump’s agenda. I am the only candidate in this race who has proven that they are willing to do both. It is time that we send a battle-tested patriot to Washington who will stand up for our district, stand up to the Party of Impeachment, and push back against the radical socialists running our nation’s Democrat Party.”  

Statement from State Sentaor for the 60th District, Chris Jacobs (R - Grand Island, North Buffalo, Southern Buffalo suburbs):

“Our challenge now as Republicans and conservatives is to help restore the public trust and offer the people of Western New York a positive vision for the future. I’ve fought for conservative principles in Albany and worked hard to deliver on a high ethical standard. I decided to run for Congress because I believe Western New York deserves a member of Congress who can be effective and Republicans deserve a candidate who can win this seat, help President Trump stop the illegal immigration crisis and enact better trade deals," Jacobs said, in a statement.

Statement from Grand Island Town Supervisor and former candidate for NY-27 Nate McMurray (D): 

“The real victims of Collins' crimes are the people of his district that he repeatedly lied to about his guilt. Collins and Republican party insiders robbed his constituents of the representation they need on important issues like the rising cost of healthcare, the opioid epidemic, and the fight for good paying jobs. They all failed us, so I’m going to keep talking about the critical issues Western New Yorkers face every day, because that’s what public service should be about, working to make other people’s lives just a little bit better."

Statement from Rep. Tom Reed (R NY-23):

“We are pleased to see this issue brought to a close, and we urge Governor Cuomo to waste no time in calling for a special election to ensure the people of New York’s 27thCongressional District have proper representation in Washington.” 

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