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ProPublica: NC’s senior senator reassured public about coronavirus readiness, sold $1.7 million in stock

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect an additional four transactions for a total sale of more than $1.7 million in holdings.

In case you missed it, be sure to make time to read ProPublica’s report on North Carolina Senator Richard Burr’s move to sell off $1.7 million in stocks while receiving daily coronavirus briefings as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Here’s an excerpt:

Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.

On Thursday, Burr came under fire after NPR obtained a secret recording from Feb. 27, in which the lawmaker gave a VIP group at an exclusive social club a much more dire preview of the economic impact of the coronavirus than what he had told the public.

Burr took to Twitter to call the NPR story a “tabloid-style hit piece.”

Read the full story at ProPublica.

Meanwhile Mother Jones reporter Russ Choma questions whether the stock move was legal:

Given this expertise and his chairmanship, Burr’s money moves certainly don’t look great. They may also be illegal. Like corporate insiders, members of Congress are prohibited from trading on information they have access to that the public wouldn’t. Craig Holman, a government ethics expert for watchdog group Public Citizen, says that Burr’s trades may have violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2012.

“This has every appearance of insider trading and an egregious violation of the STOCK Act by Sen. Burr,” Holman says.

Holman adds that the information that Burr was sharing with the constituents in the late February meeting included information that was not publicly available.

Read the Mother Jones article in full here.

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