U.S. Senator Richard Burr is temporarily stepping down as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee as federal investigators look into timely stock sales he and his wife made after receiving coronavirus briefings from U.S. public health officials.
This comes after federal agents served a search warrant on the lawmaker and seized a cellphone on Wednesday night as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into Burr’s controversial stock trades.
The FBI probe marks a dramatic escalation in law enforcement’s investigation of Burr’s stock trades in the run-up to a stock market crash amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Burr’s Senate financial disclosures, he sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million worth of shares just before the stock market crashed. The 2012 STOCK Act prohibits members of Congress and staffers from trading stocks based on information obtained through their official duties.
Burr’s brother-in-law also reportedly dumped thousands in stocks on the same day, according to ProPublica.
The stock trades have prompted calls for Burr’s resignation from Congress. Burr has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review his transactions, but has said little by way of defending himself against allegations of illegal activity.
According to a POLITICO review of eight years of his trades, Burr and his wife bought and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock in companies whose specific industries he advanced through legislation.
Currently, Burr is facing two potential federal probes into dumping over $1.72 million in stock holdings a week before the stock market began its sharp coronavirus-related decline on Feb. 20.
In addition, a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), has submitted a complaint to the Senate Ethics committee, over Burr’s 33 separate stock transactions on Feb. 13.
As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr chose not to disclose vital information and warn the public about the impending pandemic, but rather conducted insider trading and prioritized his own profits.
Burr’s actions emphasize the need to enact rules to prevent lawmakers from profiting from the offices and power they hold. During this public health crisis, we need lawmakers who will protect us, not their own profits.