Rep. Chris Collins calls criminal probe a shock

Tells WIVB: " I am innocent and I'm going to fight this"

September 10, 2018 - 8:56 pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN/AP) — Indicted Republican Rep. Chris Collins said it was "the shock of all shocks" when he learned from two federal agents that he was under criminal investigation, and he acknowledged reports that he had rejected a plea deal.

In an interview airing Monday, the three-term New York lawmaker told Buffalo television station WIVB that he thought the agents came to him in April to talk about an ongoing congressional ethics probe related to his ties to a biotechnology company.

"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 of the 6 a.m. visit. "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 was indicted a month ago on charges he illegally leaked confidential information about Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited to his son and the father of his son's fiancée. He pleaded not guilty but dropped his bid for re-election.

"There was a plea that was offered at the time. Why not take that plea?" reporter Dave Greber asked Collins during the interview.

"Well again I can't talk about the case. That was disclosed," Collins replied. "I don't even want to get into that. But I am innocent and I'm going to fight this right to the end in court."

President Donald Trump last week criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter over Collins' indictment and the separate indictment of another Republican congressman, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, suggesting the Department of Justice had put Republicans in midterm jeopardy.

"Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time," Trump tweeted Sept. 3.

Hunter has pleaded not guilty to spending campaign funds for personal expenses. He and Collins were the first two Republicans to endorse Trump in the Republican presidential primaries.

Collins said he will defer to Republican Party leaders in his western New York district to choose a replacement for him in the race against Democratic challenger Nate McMurray, a town supervisor.

"I can tell you my intention was to stay here for another four or five terms, to work my way up in the committee assignments ... And so, disappointing, where I am," Collins said. "Today was not supposed to be the last chapter in my book of life."

Democratic Congressional candidate Nathan McMurray responded to the Collins interview by issuing the following statement Monday night:

“Tonight voters heard from a man who has lost the public trust. Congressman Collins played the victim, has refused to resign from Congress and tonight expressed surprise that the rules do, in fact, apply to him.

“Mr. Collins admitted that this ballot bait and switch, ‘has never been done before’ and there’s a very clear reason: it’s undemocratic, it’s wrong, it’s insulting to voters, and it’s a joke. Most importantly, it’s illegal and will not stand. Our laws exist for a reason and party bosses don’t get to change them just because their candidate was indicted.

“The truth is that Mr. Collins is willing to be a sham candidate, willing to dupe voters by running for whatever position these kingmaking ‘powers that be’ can manipulate the easiest.

 “I’ve been crisscrossing the district and talking to the voters Mr. Collins pledged to represent and the truth is that they’re angry, they feel betrayed, and they don’t want to trust the system that knew about these allegations and propped up Mr. Collins anyway.”

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