Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina resigned from his post as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after reports of his phone being seized as evidence in an insider trading investigation surfaced.
Burr notified Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he was stepping down, according to reporting from the Washington Post, and McConnell said, “that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee” and was to take effect Friday.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is responsible for gathering information regarding national security and making subsequent recommendations; Burr has been chair of the committee since 2015.
Burr Is Facing Allegations of Insider Trading
The seizure of Burr’s phone was part of an investigation into him and two other senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kelly Loeffler. “Investigators are examining the timing of his trades and any communications concerning stock sales that he may have had with his brother-in-law and others,” the Washington Post reported on Burr.
The Los Angeles Times reported that FBI agents served Burr with a search warrant at his Washington, D.C.-area home May 13. They had also already used a warrant to access Burr’s Apple iCloud account.
But details about Burr’s stock dump first emerged in March.
According to ProPublica, Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in 33 transactions on Feb. 13 at the same time that Reuters reported him as receiving daily coronavirus briefings. ProPublica wrote that “A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.”
Then NPR reported on a secret recording of Burr warning members of the Tar Heel Circle — a club of North Carolina businesspeople for whom the entry fee ranges $10,000-$500,000 — about the virus’s potential effect on the economy at a luncheon at the Capitol Hill Club.
Burr’s trading activity and his disclosure to the Tar Heel Circle raised eyebrows because of Burr’s position as the Intelligence Committee Chairman, which gives him access to information — including classified information — that only a select group of senators are privy to. In fact, Burr helped write the framework of the federal government’s response, called the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA).
Burr, along with Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jeff Bingaman D-N.M.), was one of only three senators to vote against the STOCK Act in 2012, a bill meant to prevent U.S. senators and representatives from engaging in insider-trading; at the time, Burr called the bill “ludicrous,” the Washington Post reported, and said he voted against the legislation because it duplicated existing law.
The Allegations About Burr Have Raised Significant Backlash
Burr came under fire for his stock-trading habits in March, when both the NPR and ProPublica stories first emerged. At the time, Tucker Carlson and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — two polar political opposites — both called for his resignation for the suspicious trades.
Alan Jacobson, a shareholder in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts shareholder Alan Jacobson also filed suit against Burr in federal court alleging that he liquidated his assets based on private information.
However, Burr has denied all allegations of insider training and refused to step down. Instead issued a statement, which he shared on Twitter:
My statement in response to reports about recent financial disclosures: pic.twitter.com/J4kye5a4ok
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) March 20, 2020
Barr’s lawyer, Alice Fisher, told CNN that Burr “welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”
Since his resignation, The Hill has reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) may be next in line to succeed him as chairman of the Intelligence Committee.