Two more Republicans, Mac Thornberry and Chris Collins, announced on Monday that they are stepping away from Congress. One of them may be going to prison.
Thornberry becomes the sixth Republican Congressman from Texas to decline to run in the 2020 election. He follows Pete Olson, Bill Flores, Kenny Marchant, Mike Conaway, and Will Hurd. Will Hurd, as the only black Republican in the House, was a particularly damaging loss for a party which has been tied, through policy and campaigning decisions by the President and his top advisers, to white nationalists.
Thornberry has been a member of the House since 1994 and is one of the more influential members of Congress, having served as committee chairman and developed useful working relationships. His departure will leave only 11 of the 25 Texas House members who were in office at the time of Trump’s election in 2016.
Chris Collins of New York has been a vocal supporter and ally of President Trump. He has also been facing multiple criminal charges relating to an insider trading scandal. On Monday, he announced that he is stepping down from Congress immediately and reversing his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” in that case. Also reversing their pleas are his son and the father of his son’s fiancee, Stephen Zarsky.
Collins was, while a House member, on the board of the Australian company Innate Immunotherapeutics. The business had focused its attention on bringing one drug to market, a medicine to fight the effects of multiple sclerosis. That drug, initially very promising, had proven to be a failure in clinical trials. Collins is accused of having received information about the failure while at a White House function and, being unable to easily leave and do it himself, calling his son to have most of Collins’ stock in the company dumped prior to the inevitable plummet of the stock price.
His son then reportedly called his future father-in-law with a warning about the incipient price drop. Collins sold about $400K of damaged stock; his son and the father-in-law, combined, sold about $350K.
Collins was one of the first sitting members of Congress to publicly support President Donald Trump, and had entered his “not guilty” plea on Thursday, September 12. It is uncertain what events may have occurred in the interim which convinced him that he was no longer going to be able to avoid facing fines and/or imprisonment for his alleged criminal actions.
Both Representatives are from staunchly Republican districts, and their successors are likely to be Republican. Collins won despite the lingering fraud charges, although only by about a point, and Thornberry won with 81% of the vote in 2018 (down from 90% in 2016).