Accused of using his official position and sensitive information to sell stocks that would be impacted by COVID-19 while publicly downplaying the virus, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr officially stepped down on Friday amid an FBI probe into his finances. Senate Intelligence members Dianne Feinstein and James Inhofe have also been accused of dumping stocks related to COVID-19, but they have not been formally charged.
Prior to the markets plunging due to fears of COVID-19 spreading, Sen. Richard Burr reportedly sold at least $1.7 million of equities in February. Due to the fact that it is illegal for members of Congress to trade based on non-public information gathered during their official duties, the FBI has launched an investigation into the Intelligence Committee Chairman’s financial records.
In addition to investigating Burr’s hotel and restaurant stocks, which were sold prior to the self-imposed national quarantine, the FBI executed a search warrant at the senator’s residence in Washington, D.C. During the search, FBI agents confiscated Burr’s cellphone.
On Thursday, Burr issued the following press release: “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.”
Before stepping down on Friday, Burr submitted the final volume in the Russian investigation into election meddling for declassification review. In a joint statement with Vice Chairman Mark Warner, Burr said, “The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has submitted the fifth and final volume of its bipartisan investigative report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to the Office of Director of National Intelligence for classification review. In addition to submitting the full, classified report, and in order to help facilitate the Intelligence Community’s review, we have also submitted what we assess to be a properly redacted, unclassified version of the report, totaling nearly 1,000 pages. It is our hope that ODNI can expeditiously review these documents so that the Committee can consider, vote on, and release the report as soon as possible.”
Ironically, Burr spent most of his time as Intelligence Committee Chairman suppressing intelligence reports and public knowledge of government misconduct. Yet his final act as chairman involved submitting part of the Russian investigation for declassification.