Burr and other Republican senators have come under fire for collectively selling off millions in stocks after a private briefing with health officials in mid-February.
Sen. Richard Burr
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WASHINGTON — A powerful Republican senator who has come under fire for selling stocks after receiving private briefings about the novel coronavirus says he has asked for an ethics review into the matter.
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr sold off between $628,000 and $1.72 million in stocks in mid-February, after he and other senators received briefings from top government health officials about the coronavirus, ProPublica reported on Thursday. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr was also receiving regular briefings on the coronavirus from the country’s spy agencies. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has caused stock values to plummet.
Burr said in a statement Friday morning that he “relied solely on public news reports” — specifically, “CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus” — to inform his decision to sell the dozens of stocks.
“Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter will full transparency,” Burr said.
The Senate Ethics Committee did not immediately return a request for comment.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, Burr’s colleague from North Carolina who is up for re-election this year, put out a statement saying Burr “owes North Carolinians an explanation.”
Burr is among several senators whose financial activity following an all-senators briefing in late January is now being scrutinized. Under the STOCK Act, members of Congress are banned from using nonpublic information they receive as lawmakers to inform their stock activity. Burr was one of only three senators who voted against the law in 2012, arguing that insider trading laws already apply to members of Congress.
The STOCK Act also forced senators to file regular financial disclosures, which is how the stock sales by Burr and others were discovered.
Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican who was appointed to the Senate in early January, also sold dozens of stocks in recent months. On Jan. 24, the day of the all-senators briefing, Loeffler and her husband — the chair of the New York Stock Exchange — began selling millions in stocks, the Daily Beast reported. Loeffler also purchased between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of stocks in Citrix, a technology company that offers, among other things, software that allows people to telework from home.
Loeffler tweeted after midnight Friday that it was a “ridiculous and baseless attack,” saying that “multiple third-party advisors” make investment decisions for her and her husband.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, also sold stock in a biotechnology company after the briefing, but said on Friday that she’s “held all assets in a blind trust of which I have no control” and wasn’t at the Jan. 24 briefing.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.
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