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Former GOP Rep. Chris Collins set to be sentenced in insider trading case



Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) exits federal court on October 1, 2019 in New York City.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Disgraced former Rep. Chris Collins is set to be sentenced Friday in the insider-trading case that led him to give up his seat in Congress.

U.S. Judge Vernon Broderick is scheduled to deliver Collins’ sentence at 2:30 p.m. ET in federal court in lower Manhattan.

Federal prosecutors want Broderick to sentence Collins to nearly five years in prison — the top end of the federal guidelines range — to make an example of Collins that will “promote respect for the law, in light of the lack of respect that Collins has shown for it.”

But Collins’ lawyers have asked the judge to deliver a sentence of probation to the fallen congressman.

“He has paid a heavy price for his crimes,” one of his attorneys wrote in a court filing last week, claiming Collins is “now too ashamed to spend significant time in the community he loves.”

Probation officers had recommended a sentence of a year and a day in prison, along with a $200,000 fine and a term of supervised release.

Collins, 69, was the first member of Congress to support then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 White House bid. And despite pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements, Collins has retained some support in his upstate New York district — and from high-profile Republicans like former House Speaker John Boehner — who have vouched for Collins’ character in letters to the judge.

Collins in October pleaded guilty to tipping off his son Cameron in a phone call from the White House lawn about the results of an Australian biotech company’s failed drug trial before the test results became public.

After the test was revealed, the stock price of the firm — in which Collins was a leading investor and board member — tanked by more than 90%.

A day before Collins switched his plea to guilty, he submitted his resignation from Congress.

Cameron Collins saved nearly $600,000 by dumping his stock in the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, before it disclosed the bad news in a press release. Chris Collins himself did not trade Innate stock after learning about the test results.

The younger Collins is due to be sentenced Jan. 23, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron’s fiancee, will be sentenced Jan. 24 in connection with his selling Innate stock after being tipped by Cameron to the bad test results.

On Wednesday, Broderick sent both parties in the case a 26-question questionnaire, which the judge may use to help make his sentencing decision.

One of those questions asks: “In connection with his campaign for reelection did Collins make any statements professing his innocence in advertisements, press conferences or elsewhere?”



Colorado Democrat believes Trump awarded ventilators as political favor to vulnerable GOP senator




“I think this thing that happened with Sen. Gardner and President Trump is very disturbing,” the Colorado Democrat told CNN Wednesday evening. “What is the process here?”

DeGette said that while she wants the state to get every ventilator it can — after initially requesting 10,000 — the process employed by the White House shows that the President appears to be doling out the ventilators to his allies at a time when the virus is affecting people of all political persuasions.

“It seems that way to me,” DeGette said when asked if it appeared to be a political favor to Gardner. “I was totally outraged.”

DeGette said that the decision to award 100 ventilators followed a tortured process after the state’s delegation and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis had been asking for 10,000 ventilators.

But while they were waiting for an answer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Polis reached a deal with a private company for 500 ventilators to be sent to the state. Once FEMA got word of the state deal, the federal agency stepped in to prevent that contract from going through so it could acquire the ventilators instead, Polis said on CNN last week.

Gardner then called Trump on Tuesday night, and the President tweeted Wednesday that the state would get 100 ventilators from the federal stockpile at the Republican senator’s request. Gardner is one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection.

“They’ll be there very shortly,” Trump said at his Wednesday evening press conference after touting Gardner’s role in securing the 100 ventilators.

On a private call with House Democrats Wednesday afternoon, DeGette railed against the administration’s handling of the ventilators — and accused Vice President Mike Pence of “lying” about the process for doling out the devices, according to two sources on the call. Pence wasn’t on the call at the time but had just briefed Democrats about what he characterized as a methodical process of spreading equipment to those most in need.

DeGette, who chairs an oversight subcommittee on House Energy and Commerce, told CNN she didn’t “recall” saying Pence lied, but acknowledged she expressed concerns about the administration’s handling of the issue.

After discussing the criteria the administration says it uses to determine who gets the ventilators, DeGette said in an interview: “Nowhere did it say if a Republican senator calls up the President they can get it,” noting Gardner then took “all kinds of credit on national TV.”

DeGette said that the delegation had been working in a bipartisan manner to get the proper equipment, but she said of Gardner’s moves, “I don’t think that’s helpful.”

After Trump tweeted that the state would get the 100 ventilators at Gardner’s request, the senator praised the President in an interview with Fox News.

“The Governor has been searching for ventilators and FEMA has also been searching for ventilators. I talked to the President last night about the Colorado need for ventilators, and of course, I’m very thankful that he provided that last night,” Gardner said. “We’re going to continue to work with the President for more and continue to meet Colorado’s needs, but I think it’s just a sign that we are fighting for Colorado.”

Asked at Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing about the ventilators sent to Colorado, and whether having a personal relationship with Trump is a factor in securing necessary supplies from the federal government, both Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, demurred.

“We’ve been watching Denver very closely, and like many of the other key areas that I touched on, we’re beginning to see some encouraging news in our interactions with the governor and with local officials and with the senator,” Pence said when questioned about the decision. “We’ve made an effort not only in Colorado, but around the country, to be particularly responsive to states where we’ve seen a growth in cases.”

As of Wednesday evening, Colorado had reported 5,655 cases of coronavirus and 193 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Asked again whether politicians who enjoy personal relationships with the President were receiving preferential treatment, Birx responded: “I can tell you that within that decision complex is not just the absolute number of cases, it’s the hospital capacity and what each of those hospitals have.”

A Gardner spokesman referred CNN to the senator’s comments from Fox News.

Asked about Trump giving credit to Gardner, Polis sidestepped the question.

“Well, you’re not going to get my read on it because I’m not here to do political analysis,” Polis told reporters. “I’m here to celebrate any ventilators that arrive in our state and, of course, we are grateful for 100 ventilators.”


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COVID-19: US presidential campaigning moves to digital arena



The pandemic has forced the United States to re-examine its 2020 election cycle.
Dozens of states have postponed primaries and campaigns have moved online.
Now, concern is rising over what the situation will look like for the presidential election in November.
Alan Fisher has more on the changing presidential race.

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Minister suggests Cabinet has not discussed lockdown since Boris’s hospitalisation




A minister has suggested Cabinet has not discussed lockdown since Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said it was the case that lockdown would be reviewed on a “rolling three week basis”. 

“This is about going through a proper process, that’s why we are waiting for next week, we’ve always said it’ll be three weeks,” he told the Today programme. 

However pushed on whether a formal discussion about lockdown had taken place, Mr Dowden refused to give details, only stating that the Cabinet had met on Tuesday, two days after the Prime Minister was admitted to hospital. 

It comes after another cabinet minister warned the public not to “throw away” lockdown efforts ahead of this morning’s Cobra meeting, as Boris spent a third night in Intensive Care.

Thérèse Coffey, the Work and Pensions secretary, said while she understood the want for lockdown restrictions to be eased, appropriate steps needed to be taken. 

“Nobody pretends that this has been easy for people, trying to make sure that we stop the spread of this virus, and I really want to pay tribute to the British public who have responded really well to the emergency lockdown that we’ve had to do,” she told ITV’s Peston.

“And it’s not a case of just throwing that all away, but of making sure that as we have done every step of the way in our plan, we listen to our experts, we come to a judgement, and more of that will be discussed tomorrow.”  

It comes after ministers raised the prospect of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown extending beyond three weeks, as Boris Johnson spent a third night in intensive care.


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