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White House picnic email led to congressman's indictment

AP  |  Washington 

New York Rep. was one of the first members to back for in 2016 and quickly became a ubiquitous surrogate for the future on cable television.

Yesterday, federal prosecutors announced indictments of the Buffalo-area congressman, his son and a friend on charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Collins pleaded not guilty.

Some snapshots of the relationship and the case: EARLY ADOPTER Collins, 68, backed Trump on Feb 24, 2016 well before it was clear Trump had a shot at winning the Republican nomination in a crowded field of seasoned politicians.

But that's why, Collins said at the time, he was backing Trump.

He said the country needs "a chief executive, not a "Collins became one of Trump's most ardent and public backers, promoting him as a who would boost the economic fortunes of areas that have suffered.

He spent time in the box at the Republican National Convention and seconded Trump's nomination there. In the process, his status rose on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

"Truly my profile, both locally, nationally and within my conference, is significantly more visible," Collins told earlier this year. "I've enjoyed it."

Collins staunchly backed Trump's biggest legislative achievement, a USD 1.5 trillion tax cut.

The congressman's effusiveness, however, got some blowback after he told reporters that pressure from donors was a factor in passing the bill.

"My donors are basically saying, 'Get it done or don't ever call me again,'" Collins said.

Reeling from the failure of the GOP effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, passed the tax cut and Trump signed the measure into law in December.

The has also echoed Trump's call for an end to Robert Mueller's probe into Russian campaign collusion. The has called the Mueller probe a "witch hunt" and blamed it on Democrats.

"I share President Trump's continued frustration as the left continues to try to nullify the 2016 with claims of Russian interference," Collins said.

Collins, a first elected to the in 2012, has denied any wrongdoing in his involvement with Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, a company based in Sydney,

He was company's largest shareholder, with nearly 17 per cent of its shares, and sat on its board.

When the Ethics Committee began investigating his trading of the stock a year ago, his called the probe a "partisan witch hunt."

Yesterday, Collins was arrested and charged with conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Prosecutors filed parallel charges against his son, Cameron Collins, and a third person,

A carousel spun on the White House's South Lawn on June 22, 2017, as Trump paid tribute to the "wonderful tradition" of the annual congressional picnic and said he and his wife have "developed friendships with some really great people - mostly."

Among those gathered under the twinkling lights was Collins, whose reply to an email that night triggered what would become the indictment unsealed yesterday.

Collins received an email from Innate's saying that a trial of a drug the company developed to treat was a clinical failure.

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

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

The next morning, according to the indictment, began selling his shares, unloading enough over a two-day period to avoid USD 570,900 in losses before a public announcement of the drug trial results.

Prosecutors said the son traded on the inside information and passed it to Zarsky. Their combined trades avoided over USD 768,000 in losses, authorities said.

They said Zarsky traded on the information and tipped off at least three other people.

After the public announcement of the failure in the drug trial, the company's stock plunged 92 per cent.

In an email obtained by The News, Collins vowed to his supporters yesterday that he will stay in office, run for re-election and fight to clear his name.

House said Collins would be removed from the influential "until the matter is settled."

Trump has no connection to the Innate Immunotherapeutics case.

He promised during his presidential campaign to "drain the swamp" of corruption.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, August 09 2018. 17:55 IST