Senate Intelligence Chair Burr Steps Down Over COVID-19 Insider Trading Accusations
Republican Senator Richard Burr, who has been accused of insider trading, resigned as chairman of the congressional Intelligence Committee on Thursday, May 14. As Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Burr was one of the most well-informed and well-connected politicians in Washington.
What is Burr Accused of Doing?
When the public still considered the coronavirus a regional epidemic in China, Burr had already received a broader scope of confidential information due to the daily intelligence briefings he participated in which were conducted by the US intelligence community.
Agencies such as the CIA and the NSA were not only more closely monitoring the spread of the virus than the general public. In January and February, they also designed forecasts of how it could develop in individual countries. When scientists in other countries assessed the risk of global spread, Washington politicians were the first to know. However, the last thing they were inclined to do was spread panic.
At that time, only a few people believed that there would be a significant slump in the American economy. Burr, however, was allegedly thinking ahead. Among other things, he had invested in the hotel industry and restaurants. With the intelligence he was aware of, it was easy to imagine that Americans’ desire to travel would decrease in the coming months. Research indicates that Burr thus sold dozens of stocks or packages of shares that were worth up to $ 1.72 million. If he had not sold his holdings on February 13, he would have made substantial losses, the research also shows.
Burr’s Media Lies
Only a few days earlier, Burr commented on Fox News‘ website, assuring the Americans that the government was “better prepared for an epidemic than ever”. On January 27, however, he had attended lunch with key lobbyists and donors, to whom he announced a very different message. In a recording released by radio station NPR, Burr warned that the virus was much more aggressive “than anything we have ever seen in recent history”.
Burr, along with only three other senators, voted against tightening the restrictions on insider trading in Congress. Since the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, senators and Representatives have been unable to use information that is not known to the public. Burr called the new regulations “ridiculous” at the time.
How is Burr Responding to the Accusations?
The senator has so far defended itself by stating that its information about the coronavirus came from media reports. Republican colleagues have supported him also. Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, said Burr had certainly not done anything criminal, but he was “the one guy I can tell you that he is watching CNBC Hong Kong”. Burr, who has been a senator since 2005, is not the only politician who is said to have turned his knowledge into money, however.
Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Dianne Feinstein are also said to have sold shares in stocks earlier this year after being informed about the situation in China and the likelihood of a pandemic.
Democrat Feinstein has previously claimed that her husband had conducted the business without her knowledge. The Republican Senator from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler, is said to have sold seven-figures prior to the outbreak. As a result, just before the stock market plummeted due to the coronavirus, both are said to have escaped without significant losses or even made profits.
Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. According to CNN, Loeffler and her husband sold between $ 1 million and $ 3 million in stock before February 14. In mid-April, Loeffler called the reports on a “socialist attack” and has handed over documents to federal authorities in the meantime.
Burr, meanwhile, will continue to serve in a lower position on the Intelligence Committee for now, despite the FBI probe. However, with investigations still being undertaken, more details and in fact new suspects over the next months are not inconceivable – though Burr’s misconduct, as well as Loeffler’s and Feinstein’s, are difficult to prove in a court of law.