Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has agreed to step aside as chairman amidst a federal investigation into stock trades he made in mid-February, prior to the coronavirus-caused stock market crash.
In a statement on Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that Burr would step aside as chairman while the investigation was pending.
“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. 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,” said McConnell.
Burr told reporters on Thursday that the he has been complying with the investigation since the beginning and that “everybody ought to let this investigation play out,” reports CNBC. The senator also said he was stepping down as chairman because the ongoing investigation was a “distraction to the hard work of the committee.”
The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday evening that Burr turned over his phone to FBI agents at his residence near Washington after the agents served him with a search warrant.
A law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter told The Times the Justice Department was looking into his communications with his stock broker, and a separate official told The Times that the FBI served Apple with a warrant to gain access to information on the senator’s iCloud account.
Information about Burr’s stock activities was unearthed in late March by ProPublica, which reported that the senator and his wife “sold off a significant percentage of his stocks” over the course of 33 transactions in a single day. The trades amounted to between $628,000 and $1.72 million, reports the news agency.
A financial filing obtained by The New York Times notes that Burr sold off between $15,001 to $50,000 in holdings of Extended Stay America and $50,001 to $100,000 in holdings of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Alice Fisher, an attorney for Burr, said “the law is clear that any American — including a Senator — may participate in the stock market based on public information.”
“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,” said Fisher. “Senator Burr welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”
AP reports that Burr has acknowledged his stock sales were related to the coronavirus, but maintains he only used public information to guide his financial decisions, specifically referencing CNBC daily health and science reporting.
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