North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid an FBI investigation into stock trades he made prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
The FBI is looking into reports that Burr told donors in February that the coronavirus would be a serious pandemic, and then traded $1.6 million in stocks. The Bureau served a search warrant on Burr, seizing his cell phone and searching his home, trying to determine if Burr’s stock trading was based on inside information gleaned from his position as Senate intel chair.
Alice Fisher, a lawyer who is advising Burr, said in a statement in March:
“The law is clear that any American — including a senator — may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did. When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry. Senator Burr welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”
Burr has previously announced he will not seek re-election. He was re-elected in 2016, and the next election for his seat is in 2022.
Senator Burr informed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of his decision.
“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Thursday. “We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”
Burr isn’t the only senator in trouble for possible insider trading charges.
Disclosure records also show that three other senators sold major holdings around the same time: Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., according to The New York Times.
Loeffler has defended the sales, saying that “investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisers without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.” Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
A Feinstein spokesman in March said that the senator did not sell any stock and that “the transactions you’re referencing were made by her spouse.”
Burr seems to be the most exposed of the four. His trades could easily be construed as being based on his knowledge of the coronavirus as intelligence committee chairman.
In this instance, he’s perceived as guilty unless he can prove his innocence.