WASHINGTON —Reports on Thursday revealed Sens. Richard Burr, N.C., and Kelly Loeffler, Ga., sold off significant amounts in stocks shortly before financial markets plunged because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The senators are reported to have had knowledge about the spread of coronavirus ahead of their sales.
ProPublica reported that Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, dumped somewhere between $628,000 and $1.72 million of stocks, much of which came from the hospitality industry. The sales were made in 33 separate transactions on Feb. 13. Records of the transactions are available through the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Just days before, Burr penned a Fox News op-ed with Sen. Lamar Alexander, writing that the country was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats.”
And, according to NPR’s Thursday reporting, a couple weeks later, on Feb. 27, Burr informed a gathering at a luncheon that the coronavirus is “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” at a time when President Donald Trump was still responding to the disease’s spread in what some have described as an overly optimistic manner.
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“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” Burr’s spokesperson told ProPublica. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”
The Intelligence Committee has received briefings on the coronavirus, but Burr’s office wouldn’t say what kind of briefing materials, if any, about coronavirus he had at the time of the sales, according to ProPublica.
The Daily Beast later Thursday also reported that Loeffler and her husband sold stocks starting the same day she participated in a briefing on coronavirus, Jan. 24, as part of 29 transactions through mid-February. Those amounted to between $1.27 million and $3.1 million. Two of the transactions were purchases, the outlet reported.
On March 10, Loeffler tweeted “The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe.”
Loeffler tweeted a statement on Twitter early Friday, calling the reporting “a ridiculous & baseless attack.”
“I don’t make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement,” she wrote, adding she was informed of the transactions “three weeks after they were made.”
The New York Times reported Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., also sold stocks earlier this year ahead of the market downturn. Feinstein along with her husband sold between $1.5 million and $6 million in late January and mid-February.
Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer told Fox News Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust and, “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”
Inhofe sold roughly $400,000 in stock on Jan. 27, the Times reported.
The news had even progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and conservative Fox host Tucker Carlson in agreement: Burr should resign from Congress.
“Maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with the rest of us immediately,” Carlson said on his show Thursday evening. “Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading. There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis, and that appears to be what happened.”
“Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors, while assuring the public that we were fine,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. “THEN he sold off $1.6 million in stock before the fall.”
“He needs to resign,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez added later after the report on Loeffler surfaced that she should also resign.
And former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro tweeted, “Senators Burr and Loeffler should be investigated by authorities and the Senate Ethics Committee. If the evidence suggests they engaged in insider trading, they should be charged and stand trial.”