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EXCLUSIVE: Congressman Chris Collins gives first interview since insider trading indictment

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Regardless of what happens this November, Congressman Chris Collins said his final day in politics will be Dec. 31, the final day of his current term representing New York's 27th District. 

Collins sat down exclusively with News 4's Dave Greber, in his first one-one-one interview since he was indicted on federal charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI. 

The indictment was announced Aug. 8, and set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill and in his Western New York district, where GOP leaders continue to work out if and how they will remove his name from the Nov. ballot. 

The same month Collins was called to appear before a federal grand jury, he resigned from the Board of Directors of Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australia-based drug maker that was working on a cure for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. 

The drug failed clinical trials in June 2017, and Innate's stock dropped more than 90 percent. 

The 30-page federal indictment states Chris Collins' son Cameron and Cameron's future in-laws sold tens of thousands of Innate shares, seemingly just in time, saving themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

But federal prosecutors said those actions were based on Chris Collins divulging privelaged information to Cameron, which set off a massive sell-off within their family and by their associates. 

In the exclusive interview with News 4's Dave Greber, Chris Collins answers questions about everything from the criminal case against him and how it's affected his family, to what he hopes will happen on Nov. 6, and what the future holds.

Here's a transcript of the story that aired Monday on News 4 at 6 p.m.: 

DAVE
As a board member, you had access to privileged information. Before 2017, before any of this started, did you ever share any of that privileged information with anyone else outside the company?

COLLINS
Never. I was always very careful, as I updated other shareholders of the progress of the company, to make sure that anything that I told them was already in the public domain, things that were not privileged at all, and was always very careful about that. And in any regard, the stock wasn't publicly traded before then. And all the stock that was sold was sold in what they called a private placement to sophisticated investors with hundred-page documents, and full disclosure of everything. Everything was done properly, and I should also say my role in the company, including as a member of the board, was cleared by the Ethics Committee as I came in six years ago, as all of my outside business interests were disclosed when I came to Congress. And they asked for certain changes and I did make the changes that they required as I came here six years ago.

DAVE
When did you first learn of the federal charges, when were you first tipped off about that?

COLLINS
When they knocked on my door on April 25 at 6 AM.

DAVE
What was that like. I mean, you've never faced anything like this in the past?

COLLINS
That was the shock of all shocks. To have, as it turns out, two agents at your door at 6 AM, saying they just want to talk. As it turns out, they don't read you your rights, they don't tell you you could have an attorney, they don't tell you while you're there. It's just, a we'd like to talk. And the next thing you know, of course you're innocent, you invite them in. I'm in a bathrobe, and bare feet and just got out of bed and I chatted with them for 45 minutes or so. 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.

DAVE
Wow.

COLLINS
Did not tell me at the door, did not once read me my rights, tell me I had the right to an attorney. It was all on the supposition we just want to talk. And I thought it was related to the ethics piece. That this was just another version of what had been started back in November 2016.

DAVE
So it came as a shock?

COLLINS
Beyond a shock. Yeah, you could just imagine.

DAVE
Around April a grand jury was convened. There was a plea that was offered at the time. Why not take that plea?

COLLINS
Well again I can't talk about the case. That was disclosed. 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. And I will be exonerated.

DAVE
CBS News has exclusive video of you on the phone on the White House lawn around the same time that these accusations are detailed in that federal indictment. Who are you talking to?

COLLINS
Again I don't want to get into the case at all. That's something we will defend probably sometime next year in court, so I really can't get into details.

DAVE
Did you ever divulge privileged information to either your son Cameron or anyone else?

COLLINS
Again, I'm not going to discuss the case, Dave, other than to again remind everyone I am innocent of the meritless charges that have been placed against me, and I'm confident I will be exonerated.

DAVE
This has created a tremendous amount of chaos in New York's 27th. Guilt or innocence aside, there are questions about what will happen in November. You suspended your campaign a couple of days after the indictment was announced. What do you think should happen? Are you in communication with the folks back in Western New York about what you think should happen? Right now it's still up in the air.

COLLINS
So let me just say, it was just three days after, four days after, the shock of this with my family. We got together, at that point in time there was no question, I needed to remove the spotlight from my family as best I could. While I am innocent, I needed to look out for my family, so I did suspend my campaign. That's the right decision. I've expressed to the county leaders, the eight county chairs, I will cooperate fully in deferring to them as they look for someone to replace me on the ballot. Other than that, I am not involved. The powers that be are working through that. I will leave that with them. And other than that, I'm going to be very supportive.

DAVE
Does that mean that you would be supportive of being replaced on the ballot?

COLLINS
Yes.

DAVE
How do you think that could happen to your knowledge? Because that all is still being explored.

COLLINS 
As I understand it, they would find another spot for me to run, at which point I would then decline my spot on the congressional ballot. And that's what they're working through. As I understand it, it's never been done before, so they're looking at the legal aspects of it. And as I've said, I'm going to cooperate fully. I have every confidence that the folks working on this that they will get this done, and I'm going to cooperate with them.

DAVE
Knowing all of that and having that confidence, what is it like to have to say the words, I'm suspending my campaign? That's got to be difficult.

COLLINS
Absolutely difficult. 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. I never had any eye on leadership whatsoever, or entering the administration. I was wanting to move up into being a subcommittee chair at some point on Energy and Commerce, and just do good, solid work and legislation related to telecommunications, healthcare and the like, which is what that committee has jurisdiction of. And so, disappointing, where I am. Today was not supposed to be the last chapter in my book of life.

DAVE
Do you think it's your last chapter?

COLLINS
No, as my wife has said, I probably will never have a last chapter.

DAVE
So you believe your last day will be Dec. 31?

COLLINS
Correct.

DAVE
Given your service to western New York, do you believe you let the voters down?

COLLINS
No again, no allegations against me have a thing to do with my role as a member of Congress. Nor did I ever sell any stock, so I'm holding my head high. I'm here, it's business as usual, the same in the district, case work, a lot of work for veterans and the elderly, which is a lot of what casework we get in my office is in Genesseo and Lancaster and here. Constituents coming in, tours, speaking engagements, all of that is continuing because I am still the representative. I made sure a month ago that I reiterated that I'm going to stay here, do my job. The constituents of New York 27 deserve to have a voice and a vote. In the next two weeks we've got a vote to pass a number of appropriations bills, a continuing resolution to keep the government funded for the rest of the year. We've got the farm bill, which is in conference now to make sure that's passed. Not a single Democrat voted for the Farm Bill, not one. So we need every Republican vote, including mine, as this comes out of conference to make sure our farmers, especially the dairy in western New York, because there's a much better margin program, which we desperately need in western New York. So I'm here doing doing my job, voting each day, twice a day in most cases. I'm very informed on the issues and will continue to do that work. 

DAVE
Do you know what position you be running for?

COLLINS
No, again, I've left that up to the other folks, Nick Langworthy and Erie County and the other eight chairs. They're looking into this, again, it's never been done. But I'll leave it up to them and the lawyers they're working with to figure something out.


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