In response to the abrupt firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara earlier this month, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, and Jeff Merkley wrote a joint letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday questioning the motives behind Bharara’s termination and whether his office was investigating HHS Secretary Tom Price for alleged insider trading. The Democratic senators also asked Sessions if Bharara had been conducting any investigations into President Trump, his family, or other administration officials at the time of his sudden termination.
“According to ProPublica, when Mr. Bharara was fired, he was investigating Secretary Price’s stock trading activity,” the senators wrote in a letter to Sessions. “We and many of our colleagues raised questions regarding Secretary Price’s stock trading during his confirmation process, pointing to possible violations of The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (‘STOCK’) Act, other securities laws, and congressional ethics standards. As you know, the STOCK Act, passed in 2012, prohibits members of Congress and their staff from engaging in abusive insider trading practices, specifically, using ‘nonpublic information derived from the individual’s position…or gained from performance of the individual’s duties for personal benefit.’”
While serving as a U.S. Representative from Georgia’s 6th congressional district, Price chaired the House Budget Committee and sat on the Ways and Means Committee’s health panel. According to The Wall Street Journal, Price traded more than $300,000 in shares of health-related companies over the past four years while sponsoring and advocating legislation that could potentially affect those corporations.
“We were particularly concerned by Secretary Price’s investment in a small Australian biopharmaceutical firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics, of which Congressman Chris Collins is a board member and the firm’s largest stockholder,” the senators continued. “Last year, Secretary Price was among a small group of American investors with political ties to Collins who bought discounted Innate shares in two private stock sales. Secretary Price paid $84,000 to purchase 400,000 Innate stock, which is $40,000 less than what he would have paid for the same amount of stock on the open market. Secretary Price learned about the company from Congressman Collins. Moreover, Congressman Price provided misleading information to the Senate and Office of Government Ethics about the size of his investments in Innate, and the role that his relationship with Congressman Collins played in his purchases.”
Requesting that Sessions respond no later than April 3, the senators ended their joint letter with a series of questions beginning with the reason behind Bharara’s termination. In November, Trump invited Bharara up to Trump Tower in Manhattan and personally informed the U.S. attorney that neither he nor Sessions had any plans to fire him during the administrative transition.
In their letter, the senators directly asked Sessions if he or any other DOJ officials knew of a possible investigation into Price’s stock trading when Bharara was ordered to resign. They also asked the Attorney General if Trump or other White House officials had been aware of any investigation into Price during Bharara’s abrupt termination.
In conclusion, the senators requested any information regarding Bharara’s potential investigations into the president, his family, and any other administration officials. Besides asking about the nature of these investigations, the senators grilled Sessions over whether he, Trump, or other government officials had been aware of these investigations at the time of Bharara’s firing.
Due to the fact that Sessions repeatedly made false statements during his own confirmation process regarding interactions with high-level Russian officials during the presidential campaign, many have called for his resignation following the forced resignation of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn for similar reasons. Sessions later recused himself from any Justice Department investigations into possible collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s presidential campaign.