In a bizarrely fitting twist, the two first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy in 2016 have now both pleaded guilty to federal crimes. One of those now former Congressmen — New Jersey’s Chris Collins — is facing a sentencing at the end of this week, and federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York have now filed a request with the judge for Collins to be sentenced to nearly five years in prison. They point to the glaring hypocrisy and willful flaunting of basic legal standards inherent in his decision to repeatedly break the law while serving in Congress, where he’s tasked with collaborating in making the law.
‘In committing insider trading and later lying to federal agents to cover it up, and in continuing to actively serve in the House of Representatives during that time period, Collins came to embody the cynical idea that those in power who make the laws are not required to follow them. This surely was not lost on him, but it did not cause him to hesitate in making the choice to commit multiple crimes while holding one of the most visible and prestigious jobs in the United States.’
Thus, they continued:
‘It is critically important that the sentence imposed on Congressman Collins drive home the message that status does not constitute a basis for leniency. Collins’s decision to break the law while making the law — a decision that he made twice, ten months apart — was brazen. A sentence at the top end of the Guidelines range is necessary to assure the public that those in power do not stand above the law.’
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Collins’s legal team had previously requested a sentence of no actual jail time at all for the former Congressman. Instead, they asked for a sentence including probation, house arrest, and a “substantial” fine in light of a list of supposed positive attributes of the federal criminal including his supposed “exemplary character, acceptance of responsibility, long history of community and public service, [and] extensive record of charitable acts.” In their own memo, prosecutors reference this argument and insist that all it does is set up how Collins should have known better and thus deserves the 57 month sentence that they’re seeking. His brazenly corrupt intent is just further established. There was no innocent mistake here.
Besides the charge for the original insider trading, Collins has also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. His son and another man have also pleaded guilty in the same case.
As for the other Trump-supporting imminently ex-Congressman to face federal criminal charges, California’s Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty late last year to campaign finance law violations. Over a period of years, he and his wife used large amounts of campaign money for entirely personal expenses, like globe-spanning travel and even accommodations associated with extramarital affairs that the Congressman had while in office. It’s not yet clear what Hunter’s sentence might be.
Collins and Hunter are among an ominously long list of the president’s associates and top supporters who have faced serious criminal charges. Although Trump has repeatedly dismissed the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt,” half a dozen of his associates were criminally charged in its wake.