September 11, 2018 at 1:17 PM
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was indicted last month on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI, on Monday maintained his innocence and vowed to battle “to the end.”
In an interview with Buffalo-based TV station WIVB, Collins also acknowledged reports that he had rejected a plea deal from federal prosecutors in April, months before his Aug. 8 indictment.
“I am innocent and I’m going to fight this right to the end in court. And I will be exonerated,” Collins said in the interview. He was flanked on either side by baseball caps bearing President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Federal prosecutors allege that the lawmaker tipped off his son, Cameron Collins, to nonpublic information about an Australian biotechnology company to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. The elder Collins sits on the company’s board of directors.
Cameron Collins then shared the information with others, including Stephen Zarsky, the father of his fiancee, according to the indictment. All three men could face at least five years in prison if convicted, observers say.
News of the proposed plea deal was first reported by the Buffalo News last month. The newspaper cited experts as saying that such a deal could have allowed Collins to negotiate concessions for his son.
In the WIVB interview, Collins was asked: “Around April a grand jury was convened. There was a plea that was offered at the time. Why not take that plea?”
Collins declined to discuss the specifics of the case but acknowledged, “That was disclosed.”
Collins also detailed the scene on the morning of April 25, when he said federal agents knocked on his door at 6 a.m. “saying they just want to talk.” He described it as “the shock of all shocks.”
“I’m in a bathrobe and bare feet and just got out of bed, and I chatted with them for 45 minutes or so,” Collins said. “They wanted to know about my involvement, and I shared everything from A to Z. And then at the end of it all, they said, ‘Oh by the way, we have a subpoena for you.’ ”
Collins announced on Aug. 11 that he was suspending his reelection campaign. But it remains unclear whether his name will appear on the November ballot. Under New York law, there are few circumstances under which a candidate’s name can be removed from the ballot.
One possible scenario would be for local Republican Party leaders to nominate Collins to another position, thus allowing his name to be removed from ballots in the 27th Congressional District race. Collins told WIVB that he would support such a move, although he left it up to party leaders to decide how to proceed.
Michael Scherer contributed to this report.