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GOP Congressman Accused of Inside Trading on the White House Lawn, Looks to Skip Court During Tight Re-Election Race

Charged with insider stock trading executed while standing on the White House lawn, House member Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) has asked the judge in the trial to give him permission to skip a pre-trial conference on Oct. 11, Bloomberg News reports.

The race in his district has tightened since Aug. 8, when federal prosecutors announced the indictment, a claim that Collins has called “meritless.”

Previously, Collins was seen as likely to win a fourth term in New York state’s 27th Congressional district. Election tracking sites have shifted from “likely” for a victory to “leans,” indicating a statistically significant erosion of support.

The representative suspended his campaign in the wake of charges and then later resumed it. He has not agreed to debate his Democratic opponent, who taunted him earlier, suggesting he meet him on Oct. 11 on the courthouse steps.

The judge hasn’t yet responded to the request, which are routinely granted. Pre-conference hearings typically cover the nuts and bolts of discovery, obtaining material for presentation in the trial, and scheduling.

Collins, an early and heavy supporter of President Donald Trump, was charged over trades he made of an Australian biotechnology company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, that the government alleges came from insider knowledge. A timeline of the insider trading claims against Collins includes him allegedly placing a call to his son about the Innate Immunotherapeutics stock from a picnic on the White House lawn.

Collins’s son and his son’s financée’s father were also charged. They and Collins have all pleaded not guilty.