WASHINGTON (CNN) — Watching the news lately and witnessing the number of ongoing criminal investigations involving high-profile government officials, one might think it’s really hard to stay out of jail these days.
Despite the constant new revelations of alleged illicit activity by those in power, steering clear of the law is, in reality, one of the easiest things in the world to do. The keys to remaining free from legal scrutiny are simple: Pay your taxes, restrain your impulse toward greed, and don’t lie.
Wednesday’s arrest of New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins by special agents of the FBI marks only the latest in a panoply of serious criminal allegations against those operating in the political sphere.
According to an unsealed federal indictment, Collins is accused of conspiring with others to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to investigators about the scheme. The case centered on the role Collins played on the board of directors of pharmaceutical company Innate, which was developing a drug to treat multiple sclerosis.
On June 22, the company’s CEO notified his board of directors, including Collins, of the devastating news that the drug trial had failed. At the time, the company had no other significant medication in development, meaning the product’s failure would likely crush the company and its stockholders.
As an officer of the company, Collins had a responsibility to protect this privileged information, but instead allegedly notified his son, who in turn passed details of the drug’s failure on to an acquaintance and several others. With this inside information, timely trades were made prior to the public announcement of the drug’s failure, which caused the company’s value to drop by 92%.
In addition to trading on inside information, Collins, his son, and an associate then allegedly proceeded to lie about the scheme to FBI agents, a criminal count which itself carries up to 5 years in prison.
As with all indictments, defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But the seriousness of the allegation — a lawmaker so flagrantly flouting the law — gives pause to those who believe government officials should be held to higher standards.
Even worse is that the Collins case adds to an ever-growing list of legal troubles for those who are currently, or once were, in powerful positions.
Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager is currently on trial in Virginia for alleged tax evasion. One of the case’s star witnesses was Rick Gates, another former campaign aide who was given immunity to testify about his role in helping Manafort defraud the United States government.
Disgraced retired Gen. Michael Flynn, the President’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian government official. His case remains pending.
Michael Cohen, the President’s former personal attorney, is also reportedly being investigated for alleged tax fraud and faces other possible allegations involving misrepresenting his wealth. According to the Wall Street Journal, he has previously denied wrongdoing.
Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the highest-ranking special agent in the agency, was removed from office after reportedly lying to investigators about his actions during the FBI’s investigation of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. McCabe, too, has denied wrongdoing and his case has been referred to prosecutors in Washington, who will determine whether he will be charged.
And if all of that isn’t enough cause for concern, the President himself is currently involved in high-stakes discussions with special counsel Robert Mueller regarding whether Trump will answer questions about possible obstruction of justice and collusion with a foreign government.
The sheer number of high-profile criminal investigations currently underway would be laughable if it weren’t such a depressing reflection on the current state of our country. Does the truth even matter anymore? The litany of exposed lies and deceit by prominent people is enough to make your head spin.
Our only saving grace is the knowledge that our system of justice is built on the principle that no one is above the law and FBI agents and federal prosecutors will vigorously pursue the powerful without fear or favor. Their growing caseload is apparent proof they take that obligation seriously.
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