Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, some Republicans have refused to let up on their corruption. North Carolina’s Republican Senator Richard Burr was caught selling off hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock shortly after he received classified information about the then-growing Coronavirus threat but before the information was made public. This Wednesday, the news abruptly dropped that the FBI had served Burr with a search warrant and seized his cellphone, and now, amidst the insider trading investigation, Burr says that he is leaving his post as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
On Thursday, Burr commented:
‘This morning, I informed Majority Leader McConnell that I have made the decision to step aside as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee until this investigation is resolved. The work the Intelligence Committee and its members do is too important to risk hindering in any way. I believe this step is necessary to allow the Committee to continue its essential work free of external distractions.’
In March, Burr sold off a staggering amount of stock holdings in the range of $582,029 to $1.56 million after he received information indicating the high likelihood that the Coronavirus would majorly impact the stock market, as it ended up doing. Although the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has since rebounded, for a time, the entirety of the gains seen while Trump was in office disappeared. Burr has alleged that he made his sell-off decisions based off CNBC reporting about the then-situation in Asia.
No matter his denials of wrongdoing, Axios reports that the “Department of Justice began an inquiry into Burr’s stock transactions in late March in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” Observers have noted that the FBI would not have seized Burr’s phone without convincing reason to believe that compelling evidence would be on the device.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti noted on Twitter that the FBI’s warrant “means that a federal judge concluded that there is good reason to believe that Senator Burr engaged in insider trading and that evidence of his insider trading is contained on his cell phone.” As Mariotti elaborates:
‘For example, his phone could contain text messages or IMs with others discussing his stock trades. To obtain this warrant, prosecutors would need to show that Burr used the phone to discuss his trading activity.’
For example, his phone could contain text messages or IMs with others discussing his stock trades.
To obtain this warrant, prosecutors would need to show that Burr used the phone to discuss his trading activity.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 14, 2020
Some of the others who he may have been in discussion with include his brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, who sold off up to $280,000 on the same day that Burr made large stock sales. Do they really expect us to believe that it’s just a coincidence that a senator and his brother-in-law got lucky when the whole rest of the country, that did not have access to the same information, did not?
A number of other Senators also made suspiciously timed stock trades around the time that members of Congress began receiving private information about the Coronavirus threat, but the rest of them had at least moderately more protective alibis, including that they weren’t personally in charge of handling their stock portfolios.