On Wednesday morning, news broke that Rep. Chris Collins was indicted along with his son and his son’s father-in-law on charges of insider trading.
The implications of the charges against the New York Republican are significant for obvious reasons. Such serious allegations against a sitting member of Congress are important in any context, but in the context of an already-tough political environment for Republicans, they become outsized. Collins’s district was not considered in reach for the Democrats. That’s probably going to change.
There’s a non-obvious reason the indictment of Collins is important, too: His is only the most recent example of someone who played a role in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign facing serious criminal allegations.
Collins, as many have noted, was the first sitting member of Congress to offer Trump his endorsement. It came after Trump had started to demonstrate his electoral strength but was still unexpected. At no point before Nov. 8, 2016, was Trump exactly a darling of the Republican establishment, so his support often came from the fringes of the party. Collins, as a de facto establishment figure given his position, helped to some small extent to solidify Trump as acceptable to the party. And Trump appreciated it.
Because Trump was drawing mostly from the fringes, though, his campaign ended up attracting people further from the center of the Republican political world, some of whom wound up facing federal indictments or significant federal investigations. Given Trump’s assertion that his team would be made up of the “best people in the world,” it’s worth remembering just how extensive those allegations are.
Former campaign manager
Charged with misdemeanor battery in March 2016. Charges dropped.
After Trump gave a speech at a Trump Organization property in Jupiter, Fla., in March 2016, journalist Michelle Fields approached the then-candidate to ask a question. Lewandowski grabbed Fields’s arm and pulled her away from Trump, leaving her with bruising.
For weeks, Lewandowski (and Trump) denied that Fields had been touched and downplayed her allegations. Eventually, video from the room where the incident occurred was released clearly showing that Fields had been grabbed. Lewandowski was charged with misdemeanor battery, but officials declined to prosecute.
Lewandowski was fired two months later.
Former campaign adviser
Subject of a federal counterintelligence investigation beginning in October 2016.
Page was one of several people named as an adviser to the Trump campaign in March 2016. At the time, Trump was seeking to bolster perceptions that he was up to the presidency, and the appointment of a foreign policy team was meant to show that he had serious advisers backing his effort.
Page, an energy industry executive, had been on the FBI’s radar for years after a federal counterintelligence investigation recorded a suspected Russian agent mentioning Page as a possible target for espionage work. Over the course of 2016, Page traveled to Russia twice. In July, he met with a deputy prime minister while in Moscow for a speech. Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele — hired earlier in the year to investigate ties between Trump and Russia — was told that there was more to Page’s conversations than he let on.
In October 2016, the FBI sought a warrant to surveil Page. It was granted and eventually extended several times to continue allowing federal authorities to track his communications. No charges have been filed against Page.
Former campaign adviser
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October.
Papadopoulos, like Page, was appointed as an adviser to the campaign in March 2016. Shortly after earning that position, he was approached by a London-based professor named Joseph Mifsud, who allegedly has ties to the Russian government. In April, Mifsud informed Papadopoulos that the Russians had emails incriminating Hillary Clinton, a revelation that Papadopoulos later shared with an Australian diplomat.
When documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee were leaked in June and July 2016, the Australians told the FBI what Papadopoulos had said. That launched the broader investigation into ties between Russian interference efforts and the Trump campaign.
A week after Trump was inaugurated, Papadopoulos was questioned by the FBI. He misled investigators about his conversations with Mifsud, a deception to which he later admitted. In July 2017, he was arrested and agreed to work with the investigation. In October 2017, he pleaded guilty to one charge of making false statements.
Former campaign chairman
Charged in October, February and June with more than two dozen criminal counts, including conspiracy, money laundering, obstruction of justice and bank fraud. A trial is underway.
Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign before Lewandowski’s firing, after which point he stepped into the lead role. He’d worked on a number of campaigns but had earned a reputation for being willing to work with controversial figures, including dictators and Russian oligarchs.
In October, investigators working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III obtained an indictment against Manafort for a broad range of alleged crimes largely centered on his work for the former president of Ukraine and his alleged efforts to hide money he had been paid. In February, Mueller’s team added new charges. In June, Manafort was charged with efforts to obstruct the investigation into his actions by trying to influence a witness.
While many of the alleged crimes predate his time with Trump’s campaign, it’s clear that his actions during that period are also of interest to Mueller. Manafort is on trial in Virginia.
Former campaign adviser
Pleaded guilty in November to making false statements.
Flynn was an early and enthusiastic Trump backer who parlayed that loyalty into a gig as national security adviser. It was short-lived. The Washington Post reported that Flynn, already tapped for an administration role, had spoken with Russia’s then-U.S. ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December 2016. Pressed to say whether the conversation had included discussion of sanctions imposed by the administration of President Barack Obama, Flynn at first denied it. That’s apparently what he told others on Trump’s team, too: Vice President-elect Pence assured an interviewer in January 2017 that Flynn had had no such conversation. It wasn’t true. Flynn was eventually fired for misleading Pence.
Flynn also misled the FBI in an interview that January. In late November, he admitted making a false statement to investigators. He is awaiting sentencing.
Flynn’s most infamous moment during the campaign came during a speech at the Republican convention in July.
“If I did a tenth of what she did,” he said, referring to Clinton, “I would be in jail today.”
Former deputy campaign chairman
Originally charged with more than two dozen criminal counts, Gates eventually pleaded guilty to two, conspiracy and making false statements, in February.
Gates came to the Trump campaign with Manafort, his longtime business partner, serving as deputy campaign chairman. At first, Gates faced a similar array of criminal charges as his former boss, but in February he agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators in exchange for admitting guilt on two counts.
This week, Gates appeared at Manafort’s trial and admitted a broad array of criminal activity, some of which, he testified, came at Manafort’s behest. As with Manafort, none of the charges deal specifically with actions undertaken while he was employed by the campaign or during the transition period while he was still in Trump’s employ.
Campaign aide and attorney to Trump
Under investigation by the Justice Department, reportedly for possible tax fraud.
In April, federal investigators raided Cohen’s home and office in New York City, seizing thousands of documents and files (including some audio recordings). It’s not clear what charges Cohen might face from the investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, but the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that he was probably at least being investigated for allegedly failing to properly pay taxes on income from his taxi business.
Cohen may also be at risk of being charged with campaign finance violations stemming from his role in paying $130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about her allegations of a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Cohen’s role with the Trump campaign was informal but involved providing advisory work to Trump personally and occasionally appearing on television to offer insights into how the campaign was doing.
The investigation stemmed in part from information provided to the Justice Department by Mueller’s team.
First congressional endorser
Charged Wednesday with conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud and false statements.
As noted above, Collins, an early Trump endorser, was charged with 11 criminal counts Wednesday. They include conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud and, like others above, offering false statements to investigators.
Authorities announced Wednesday that some of those allegedly involved in the Collins insider-trading effort had settled the charges against them.
In total, these seven individuals who were involved in making Trump’s campaign a success have pleaded guilty to or faced 41 criminal counts.
Mueller’s investigation is still underway.