Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr and his wife sold as much as $1.7 million in stock last month ahead of the sharp market decline that's resulted from the novel coronavirus global pandemic, according to Senate documents.
Two weeks later, the North Carolina Republican sounded a blunt warning in February about the dire impact of the novel coronavirus during a private event in Washington, according to audio obtained by NPR, which contrasted with President Donald Trump's public statements at the time that suggested the virus would disappear.
Burr's committee has received periodic briefings on coronavirus as the outbreak has spread, but the committee did not receive briefings on the virus the week of Burr's stock sales, according to a source familiar with the matter.
A week before his stock sell-off, Burr authored an op-ed with GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee titled, "Coronavirus prevention steps the U.S. government is taking to protect you." Burr has also worked on legislation aiding US preparations for pandemics for years.
On February 13, Burr and his wife sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in stock in 33 transactions, according to Senate financial disclosure records. Burr and his spouse also sold between $80,000 and $200,000 of stock on January 31, and purchased between $16,000 and $65,000 of stock on February 4. The majority of the sales were from Burr's wife, the records show, between $520,000 and $1.2 million.
There's no indication that the stock sales were made on the basis of any inside information Burr received as a senator, or that he broke any Senate rules by selling the stock. Congress passed the Stock Act in 2012 that made it illegal for lawmakers to use inside information for financial benefit. Burr was one of three senators to vote against the bill.
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