Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, sold hundreds of thousands in stocks after a Senate-only coronavirus briefing and three others made large sales around the same time.
Burr, who voted against banning insider trading for Congress in 2012, and his wife sold between $628,000 to $1.7 million worth of stocks on February 13, according to disclosures obtained by The New York Times.
The sale came two weeks after attending a Senate-only briefing on the coronavirus. It also came days after he downplayed the risk posed by the pandemic, writing an op-ed at Fox News asserting that the US is better prepared than ever before” to respond to the crisis.
The stock sales included the hotel chains Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Extended Stay America, which have seen significant stock price declines in recent weeks.
The sale was a significant share of his holdings.
Many, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and a wide range of Democratic lawmakers, called on Burr to resign.
“He dumped his shares in hotel stocks so he wouldn’t lose money, and then he stayed silent,” Carlson said. “Maybe there is an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with us immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading.”
Burr said in a statement that he made the sale based on public information but has asked the Ethics Committee to review the transactions.
3 other senators sold stock:
California Democrat Dianne Feinstein sold between $1.5 million to $6 million worth of stock in a California biotech company after the briefing.
Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe sold up to $400,000 in stock in PayPal, Apple, and Brookfield Asset Management after the briefing.
Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler and her husband sold millions of dollars of stock on the day she tweeted about attending the Senate briefing, including holdings like Exxon Mobil, Ross Stores, and AutoZone.
Senators claim innocence:
“Sen. Loeffler does not make investment decisions for her portfolio,” Loeffler’s office said in a statement. “Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisers without her or her husband’s knowledge or involvement.”
“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” spokesman Tom Mentzer said in a statement. “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”
Inhofe said that he did not have “any involvement” in his investment decisions and did not even attend the January 24 briefing.
“Congress began requiring its members to disclose their stock sales in 2012, when it passed a law called the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which was intended to prevent lawmakers from using inside information to profit,” The Times reported.