Democrats press 'culture of corruption' argument against GOP, Trump

As a Republican Congressman from New York was indicted Wednesday on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI, Democrats in Congress turned up the volume on a throwback political argument which helped them win control of the Congress in 2006, again pressing the case that voters should toss Republicans out of office, arguing the 'swamp' is filled by GOP lawmakers and Republican officials who are corrupt.

"The American people deserve better than the GOP’s corruption, cronyism, and incompetence," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, as securities fraud and insider trading charges were unveiled on Wednesday against Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY).

"The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today," Pelosi added in a statement.

Much as President Donald Trump used the phrase "Drain the Swamp" over the past few years at his rallies, Democrats say it doesn't take much to see Republican wrongdoing in that 'swamp.'

"Trump, Collins, Pruitt, Price, Flynn, Manafort, Gates, Kushner," said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). "It’s not a coincidence, it’s a pattern of people putting themselves first and our country second."

"This is what corruption looks like," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) after the Collins indictment.

As for Collins, he vigorously denied any wrongdoing in a statement hours after pleading not guilty to federal charges.

"The charges that have been levied against me are meritless," Collins said of the 22 page complaint brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which was chock full of evidence that showed Collins tipping off his son, who then told his girlfriend and her family, as they all sold stock in an Australian biotech firm before news of a failed drug trial sent the stock plummeting in value.

"I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name," said Collins, who said he would remain on the ballot for November, and would not give up his bid for re-election in western New York.

Even before the indictment of Rep. Collins, Democrats felt that they had no shortage of stories and targets to highlight on the campaign trail when it comes to questions of ethics, without even bringing up the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Some of the examples they raise:

+ The multiple investigations of now former EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

+ A number of ongoing investigations of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

+ Financial questions about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

+ Excessive use of military planes for travel by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

+ Questions about President Trump's businesses.

+ Ex-Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who resigned without paying back an $84,000 harassment settlement.

+ Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), who resigned after disclosure of a sexual harassment claim.

+ The resignation of Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), who reportedly asked his mistress to consider an abortion (she did not get pregnant).

+ Excessive travel costs run up by former HHS Secretary Tom Price.

+ Travel costs involving former VA Secretary David Shulkin, which included Shulkin's chief of staff doctoring evidence presented to internal investigators.

+ HUD Secretary Ben Carson's $31,000 dining room set.

+ The head of the CDC resigning after it was revealed that she bought tobacco stocks soon after taking her federal health job.

+ Questions about stock purchases by ex-Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), which included buying the same stock involved in the Collins case.

"The Collins indictment represents everything Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have stood for since taking office," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

For some on Capitol Hill, it's a throwback to 2006, when Republicans in Congress seemed to melt down before the mid-term elections with a number of ethical problems, highlighted by the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), after questions surfaced over his contacts with teenage House Pages.

And with the 2018 elections not far off, Democrats have clearly decided to press the 'culture of corruption' argument, in hopes that it can help them regain the majority in Congress in November.

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