It shouldn’t have come as any great surprise that North Carolina’s senior senator, Republican Richard Burr, has a penchant for bringing a “me and my portfolio first” approach to public service. Burr, who is now at the center of a growing national political firestorm after yesterday’s revelation that he warned a wealthy donor group that the new coronavirus would have devastating effects and sold stocks in hotels last month after receiving a briefing about the virus in his role as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has taken similar action before.
The senator acquired the derogatory nickname “Bank Run Burr” in the aftermath of the last great national financial crisis after telling his wife at the onset of the crisis to “draw out everything it will let you take” from their bank accounts via an ATM on successive days.
And while the fallout from the previous episode was limited — mostly to the senator attracting comic and unflattering assessments from critics who already saw him as the quintessential lightweight pol — the latest one seems unlikely to melt away quite so quickly.
At this writing, the senator is drawing scathing attacks from across the country, calls for in-depth investigations into his actions and even calls for his immediate resignation from both conservatives and progressives.
This morning, the North Carolina Democratic Party called for Burr to resign, saying he “has betrayed the trust of every North Carolinian in a time of crisis.”
Last night, ABC News producer John Santucci tweeted:
“Hearing from sources close to President Trump that Burr needs to resign.”
Meanwhile, columnist Dave Leonhardt of the New York Times had this summary of some of the reactions Burr (and Georgia senator Kerry Loeffler, who attended the same January 24 briefing that Burr attended with a senior government scientist and dumped stocks as well) are drawing in his morning newsletter:
Their sales are “an immense and outrageous abuse of the public trust,” writes Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey. “It’s an inexcusably terrible thing to have done.”
- Tucker Carlson, Fox News: “[Burr] had inside information about what could happen to our country, which is now happening, but he didn’t warn the public. He didn’t give a prime-time address. He didn’t go on television to sound the alarm. He didn’t even disavow an op-ed he’d written just 10 days before claiming America was ‘better prepared than ever’ for coronavirus. He didn’t do any of those things. Instead, what did he do? He dumped his shares in hotel stocks so he wouldn’t lose money, and then he stayed silent. Now maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with the rest of us immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate … ”
- Molly Knight: “Richard Burr should not hold government office by Monday. He needs to resign today.
- David French, The Dispatch: “The potential insider trading is dreadful and possibly criminal, but what could elevate this to a historic scandal is the idea that senators may have known enough to be alarmed for themselves yet still projected rosy scenarios to the public AND failed to make sure we were ready.”
- David Frum of The Atlantic wants to know who else may have sold stock: “What did the Trump family sell, and when did they sell it?”
- The Times editorial board argued in December that “members of Congress should not be allowed to buy and sell stocks, or to serve on corporate boards.”
- In 2012, Robert Reich notes, Burr was one of only a small number of members to vote against a law that barred them from trading on inside information.
This is a fast-developing story. Look for additional updates as the day progresses.