“CORRUPTION WATCH”

New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins, who was indicted for insider trading yesterday, vowed to fight the “meritless” charges. Tonight, we take you to the halls of Capitol Hill for the latest on the accusations.

Aired on August 9, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> THE CHARGES THAT HAVE BEEN LEVIED AGAINST ME ARE MERITLESS AND I WILL MOUNT A VIGOROUS DEFENSE IN COURT TO CLEAR MY NAME.

THAT WAS NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN CHRIS COLLINS SPEAKING JUST HOURS AFTER HE WAS INDICTED ON FEDERAL CHARGES OF INSIDER TRADING.

COLLINS, WHO REPRESENTS THE 27th DISTRICT IN WESTERN NEW YORK AND WAS THE FIRST SITTING CONGRESSMAN TO ENDORSE DONALD TRUMP IN 2016, IS NOW FACING MULTIPLE COUNTS OF SECURITIES FRAUD INCLUDING WIRE FRAUD, CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT WIRE FRAUD, AND MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS.

THE CONGRESSMAN AND HIS CO-DEFENDANTS HAVE ALL PLED NOT GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES.

THE FALLOUT ON CAPITOL HILL HAS BEEN SWIFT.

HOUSE SPEAKER PAUL RYAN RESPONDED BY REMOVING COLLINS FROM THE POWERFUL HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE PENDING THE OUTCOME OF THE CASE.

COLLINS IS UP FOR REELECTION IN NOVEMBER.

JOINING US NOW FOR THE LATEST ON THIS CASE AND AS PART OF OUR ONGOING CORRUPTION WATCH COVERAGE, IS CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND FORMER MANHATTAN ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY ISABELLE KIRSCHNER.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

THANK YOU.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO US I GUESS IN LAYMAN'S TERMS WHAT EXACTLY THE CONGRESSMAN WAS CHARGED WITH?

THIS WAS A PRETTY STRAIGHTFORWARD INSIDER TRADING CASE.

ESSENTIALLY THE CONGRESSMAN OWNED SHARES IN THIS COMPANY ON WHICH HE SITS ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.

APPARENTLY AT SOME POINT HE HAD HIS SON, HIS SON'S FIANCE, HER FATHER, AND A NUMBER OF OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS, I THINK, OF HER FAMILY, INVEST IN THE COMPANY.

AND THAT INVESTMENT SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN TIED TO THE DRUG TRIAL FOR A DRUG THAT WAS GOING TO TREAT MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.

IN MID-JUNE, THE CONGRESSMAN RECEIVES WORD, AND IRONICALLY HE'S ON THE FRONT LAWN OF THE WHITE HOUSE AT SOME WHITE HOUSE PICNIC, STEPPING AROUND THE SWAMP, AND LITERALLY HE'S AT THE PICNIC, AND I BELIEVE THERE'S ACTUALLY PHOTOGRAPHS OF HIM AT THE PICNIC, AND HE RECEIVES AN E-MAIL OR SOME COMMUNICATION INDICATING THAT THE DRUG TRIAL WENT BAD, UNEXPECTEDLY BAD, WHICH WOULD INDICATE THAT ONCE THE COMPANY PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED THAT, THE SHARES OF STOCK OF THAT COMPANY ARE GOING TO CALL.

HE IMMEDIATELY GETS ON THE CALL.

I BELIEVE HE INITIALLY RECEIVED AN E-MAIL SAYING THE DRUG TRIALS WERE A DISASTER.

HE WRITES BACK AND THERE'S AN E-MAIL THAT SAYS, HOW CAN THIS BE, THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE.

BUT HE GETS ON THE PHONE WITH HIS SON.

AND ACCORDING TO THE INDICTMENT, HE MAKES A NUMBER OF PHONE CALLS TO THE SON THAT ARE UNANSWERED, WHICH MEANS THE SON DIDN'T ANSWER THE PHONE, BUT THEN CONNECTS WITH THE SON, AND SOMEBODY WHO IS A PARTY TO THAT CONVERSATION OR WHO IS IN THE ROOM FOR THAT CONVERSATION AND IS ABLE TO HEAR -- GIVES A FAIRLY VERBATIM RENDITION OF THAT CONVERSATION IN THE INDICTMENT, SOMEBODY WHO IS A CO-CONSPIRATOR, AND ESSENTIALLY THE GIST OF THE CONVERSATION IS, THIS PRIVATE INSIDE INFORMATION THAT I HAVE BECAUSE I'M A DIRECTOR OF THE COMPANY AND HAS BEEN PROVIDED TO ME EARLIER THAN THE PUBLIC IS GOING TO GET IT, HAS NOW COME OUT AND THINGS ARE GOING TO GO BAD, SO EVERYBODY WHO BOUGHT THESE SHARES, DUMP YOUR STOCKS BEFORE THIS GOES PUBLIC.

AND THAT'S WHERE IT BECOMES ILLEGAL.

IT'S ILLEGAL, ONE, BECAUSE IT'S INSIDER INFORMATION, AND TWO, HE'S A DIRECTOR OF THE COMPANY AND HE'S SPECIFICALLY PROHIBITED BY THE RULES OF THE COMPANY AND BY THE SEC RULES OF TRADING ON INSIDER INFORMATION.

THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE A CONGRESSMAN, A SITTING CONGRESSMAN WHO IS ALSO SITTING ON THE BOARD OF A PRIVATELY HELD COMPANY, IS THAT NORMAL, IS THAT ETHICAL?

LOOK, I THINK IT'S -- UNFORTUNATELY IT'S NOT ABNORMAL.

YOU KNOW, FOR LAWYERS, AND FOR JUDGES, THE STANDARD IS YOU AVOID EVEN THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY.

APPARENTLY THAT'S NOT THE CASE IN WASHINGTON.

SO WHILE IT MAY BE -- IT SEEMS TO ME THE CITIZENRY MAY LOOK AT THIS AND SAY THIS DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT, THAT YOU'RE SITTING ON THE BOARD OF A COMPANY AND MAY WELL BE IN A POSITION TO PASS LEGISLATION THAT AFFECTS EITHER THAT INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE OR THAT COMPANY IN PARTICULAR, THAT IN AND OF ITSELF IS NOT ILLEGAL.

IS THERE ANYTHING INDICATION, AT LEAST FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, HOW THIS DEFENSE MIGHT BE SHAPING UP, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE?

LOOK, THESE KINDS OF CASES ARE VERY SORT OF TECHNICALLY DRIVEN.

AND YOU'LL HAVE DIFFERENT KINDS OF EVIDENCE IN THIS CASE.

WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT IS THAT THE GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO BE REQUIRED TO TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE THE EVIDENCE THAT THEY INTEND TO PRESENT AT TRIAL, NOT NECESSARILY ALL OF IT IT -- ALL OF IT, BUT A LOT OF IT.

AND DEFENSE COUNSEL, ALL OF WHOM APPEAR TO BE PRETTY COMPETENT AND EXPERIENCED, WILL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO EVALUATE THAT EVIDENCE AND MAKE A DETERMINATION AS TO WHETHER OR NOT IT'S IN THEIR CLIENT'S BEST INTERESTS TO ACTUALLY GO TO TRIAL.

ALL OF THIS IS VERY MUCH COMPLICATED BY THE FACT THAT PEOPLE ARE RELATED TO EACH OTHER.

AND SO IT APPEARS FROM THE INDICTMENT AT LEAST THAT HIS SON'S FIANCE MAY HAVE PROVIDED INFORMATION TO THE GOVERNMENT THAT HAS MADE A LITTLE BIT OF A BRIDGE HERE BETWEEN POINT 'A' AND POINT 'B.'

AND IT IS NOT UNLIKELY THAT SOME OF THE OTHER PEOPLE IDENTIFIED IN THE INDICTMENT AS CO-CONSPIRATORS 1 THROUGH 6 HAVE ALSO SPOKEN WITH THE GOVERNMENT, EITHER BECAUSE THEY WERE PUT IN THE GRAND JURY AND COMPELLED TO SPEAK OR THEY SPOKE AND CUT DEALS, OR MAYBE SOMEBODY PLEADED GUILTY.

BUT CLEARLY THERE WAS SOME SORT OF TRIAGE ON THE PART OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE WHERE THE DECISION WAS MADE TO CHARGE CERTAIN PEOPLE AND NOT OTHER PEOPLE.

WHAT COMPLICATES IT FOR THE THREE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN CHARGED IS THAT THEY'VE ALSO BEEN CHARGED WITH MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS TO THE FBI.

THOSE ARE WHAT WE CALL 'THOUSAND AND ONE VIOLATIONS.'

VERY OFTEN, AS WE'VE SEEN TIME AND AGAIN, THE CRIME IS ONE THING.

IT'S ALWAYS THE COVER UP.

IT'S ALWAYS THE COVER UP.

WHEN YOU MAKE FALSE STATEMENTS TO THE FBI AND THOSE FALSE STATEMENTS START TO CONTRADICT EITHER EACH OTHER OR WHAT WILL BE PRETTY OBJECTIVE RECORDS, YOU KNOW, IF YOU'RE EVER ON THE BUBBLE IN TERMS OF WHETHER OR NOT YOU'RE GOING TO BE CHARGED, ONCE YOU MAKE FALSE STATEMENTS TO THE FBI, THEY DON'T LOOK KINDLY UPON THAT.

THAT'S OFTEN ENOUGH TO TIP YOU INTO THE 'YOU'RE GETTING CHARGED' CATEGORY.

ALL RIGHT.

THAT'S DEFINITELY A LOT OF FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM.

AS YOU SAID, IT IS USUALLY THE COVERUP THAT LEADS US TO THESE STORIES OF CORRUPTION.

WE'LL BE FOLLOWING THIS AND WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU BACK TO GIVE US YOUR INSIGHT ON WHAT WE SEE HAPPENING IN COURT.

THANKS VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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