Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is the subject of a Justice Department investigation after he reportedly dumped stocks as the coronavirus pandemic began to worsen, according to reports from The Washington Post and CNN.
The Justice Department has not publicly announced any investigation into Burr, though he has been widely accused of inside trading — a charge that he denies.
The North Carolina Republican, who has said that he is retiring after this term came under fire in mid-March after a report from NPR accused him of warning a group of insiders about the coronavirus, and sold stocks while publicly downplaying the risks and saying that the U.S. was prepared.
In a recording of his conversation obtained by NPR, Burr said, “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history.”
ProPublica reported that Burr sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in stocks around the same time that he was receiving briefings on the threat of the coronavirus, raising the possibility that he used non-public information to make the decision to sell off the stocks.
In response, Burr said that he “relied solely on public news reports guide [his] decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13.”
Burr added that he “spoke with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency.”
My statement in response to reports about recent financial disclosures: pic.twitter.com/J4kye5a4ok— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) March 20, 2020
In a statement on Sunday to CNN, Burr’s lawyer Alice Fisher insisted that he did not use non-public information to come to the decision to dump the stocks.
“The law is clear that any American — including a Senator — may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did,” Fisher said, adding, “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.”
Burr is not the only senator who has been scrutinized for a reported stock dump as the coronavirus worsened. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) also received criticism for reportedly selling off stocks in the weeks before the pandemic.