Richard Burr To Step Down As Senate Intelligence Chairman During Probe Of Stock Sell-Off
BY ALANA WISE
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is stepping aside temporarily as chairman of the Intelligence Committee amid a Justice Department investigation of his stock trades, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday.
“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,” McConnell said in a written statement. “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.”
Burr’s move calls to mind Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who in April 2015 stepped down as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee after being indicted on corruption charges. Those charges were eventually dismissed.
A senior Justice Department official told NPR that the FBI executed a search warrant Wednesday and seized Burr’s cellphone. The Los Angeles Times first reported the news of the search.
Speaking to a C-SPAN reporter Thursday, Burr said he was cooperating with investigators.
“Everybody ought to let this investigation play out,” he said.
When asked why he stepped away from his committee chairmanship, Burr said: “This is a distraction to the hard work of the committee and the members, and I think the security of the country is too important to have a distraction.”
At issue are stock trades Burr made before the market crash caused by the coronavirus pandemic. ProPublica reported that he dumped up to $1.7 million in stocks while assuring the public that the U.S. was well-positioned to withstand the outbreak.
Burr and fellow Senate Republican Kelly Loeffler of Georgia faced scrutiny for dumping millions of dollars in stocks ahead of the economic downturn. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Two other lawmakers, Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., were criticized for selling stocks ahead of the market crash, though both have said they did not have direct involvement in the sales, Reuters reported.
Feinstein has also spoken with federal investigators – about her husband’s stock trades.
“Senator Feinstein was asked some basic questions by law enforcement about her husband’s stock transactions,” a spokesman told NPR. “She was happy to voluntarily answer those questions to set the record straight and provided additional documents to show she had no involvement in her husband’s transactions. There have been no follow up actions on this issue.”
Feinstein, like Burr, is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She had previously spoken to federal investigators last month, according to her spokesman.
Claudia Grisales contributed to this report.