- Burr is the chairman of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, which has access to the federal government’s most classified and sensitive information.
- Someone who picked up Fauth’s phone hung up when ProPublica reached out to ask whether he and Burr had discussed the stock sales in advance.
- Burr’s committee was getting daily briefings on the threat of the coronavirus around the time he dumped his stock, shortly before the stock market plunged amid fears of a global outbreak.
- The Justice Department is currently investigating the actions of US lawmakers who sold stocks before the market tanked, and the FBI has reportedly contacted Burr’s office as part of the probe.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories .
Sen. Richard Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, dumped up to $280,000 in stocks on the same day Burr did, as the coronavirus began gaining a foothold in the US, ProPublica reported Wednesday .
In all, he sold between $97,000 and $280,000 in shares from six companies, including a number of stocks that were particularly hard hit when the stock market and US economy began cratering amid the pandemic, according to ProPublica.
Fauth also has a position on the National Mediation Board and was tapped for the post in 2017 by President Donald Trump.ADVERTISING
Someone who picked up Fauth’s phone hung up when ProPublica reached out to ask whether he and Burr had discussed the stock sales in advance.
Burr, of North Carolina, is the chairman of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, which has access to the federal government’s most classified and sensitive information.
According to Reuters, Burr’s committee was getting daily briefings on the threat of the coronavirus around the time he dumped his stock.
The Senator unloaded up to $1.72 million in stocks on February 13, days after reassuring the public that the Trump administration was well prepared to handle the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
A source familiar with the matter told CNN his committee did not get a briefing the week he sold his stocks.ADVERTISING
In a February 7, op-ed for Fox News , Burr along with Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee acknowledged that “Americans are rightfully concerned about the coronavirus” at a time when the number of cases in China was still skyrocketing.
The senators added, however, that “Thankfully, the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus, in large part due to the work of the Senate Health Committee, Congress, and the Trump Administration.”
According to Burr’s financial disclosure form , he started dumping stock on February 13, six days after writing that op-ed.
He made a total of 33 separate transactions, unloading anywhere from $1,001 to $100,000 worth of stocks in different companies.
Burr defended his actions the day after ProPublica first reported on the stock sales, saying in a statement, “I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13. Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time.”
He added: “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 with full transparency.”
ProPublica’s report came hours after NPR reported it had obtained a recording that features Burr raising dire concerns about the coronavirus to members of a private Washington club.
“There’s one thing I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history. It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic,” Burr said in the recording, according to NPR.
“Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel,” Burr added. “You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they’re making to Europe is essential or whether it could be done on video conference. Why risk it?”
After ProPublica published its report, it surfaced that several other US senators had also dumped millions in stocks right before the markets plummeted amid fears of the coronavirus.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia sold off shares after a closed-door briefing on the outbreak on January 24. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also unloaded stocks in the weeks after the briefing. All of the senators have denied any wrongdoing.
CNN reported in March that the Justice Department is investigating the actions of US lawmakers who sold stocks before the market plunged amid coronavirus fears. The FBI has reportedly reached out to Burr as part of the probe.
In a statement to CNN, Alice Fisher, a lawyer for Burr, said he “welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”
Loeffler, Inhofe, and Feinstein’s offices said the lawmakers have not been contacted by the FBI. Inhofe and Loeffler said their stock transactions are held by third parties, while Feinstein said that her husband had sold the stocks and that she holds “all assets in a blind trust of which I have no control.”