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Sen. Richard Burr Steps Down as Intelligence Chairman Amid FBI Probe Over Stock Sales
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=54348"><span class="small">Pete Williams, Phil Helsel and Kasie Hunt, NBC News</span></a>   
Thursday, 14 May 2020 12:40

Excerpt: "Feinstein also answered questions from the FBI about stock trades that her husband made and she provided documents to the FBI, her spokesman said Thursday."

Sen. Richard Burr. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)
Sen. Richard Burr. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)

Sen. Richard Burr Steps Down as Intelligence Chairman Amid FBI Probe Over Stock Sales

By Pete Williams, Phil Helsel and Kasie Hunt, NBC News

14 May 20

Burr on Thursday temporarily stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid the investigation.

en. Richard Burr, R-N.C., on Thursday temporarily stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after the FBI seized his cellphone and questioned Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as part of a possible insider trading investigation.

Burr faced pressure to step aside as head of the powerful committee after the FBI seized his cellphone as part of a search warrant, senior law enforcement official confirmed to NBC News.

"This is a distraction to the hard work of the committee, and the members and I think that the security of the country is too important to have a distraction," Burr told reporters Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Burr would step aside "during the pendency of the investigation" effective at the end of the day on Friday.

Feinstein also answered questions from the FBI about stock trades that her husband made and she provided documents to the FBI, her spokesman said Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times first reported Wednesday night that federal agents had obtained Burr's phone, indicating a major escalation of the Justice Department investigation.

A senior Department of Justice official confirms that the search warrant for Burr's phone was actually served on his attorney. But the official says the phone itself needed to be picked up by FBI agents at Burr’s home but that there was not a “raid” on the senator’s residence. Agents took possession of the cell phone and then left Burr’s home.

That same official says the search warrant was approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department, meaning Attorney General William Barr signed off on executing the warrant.

A spokesman for Burr declined to comment Wednesday. A spokesperson for the Justice Department also declined to comment on The Times story.

Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, faced calls to resign in March after reports that he privately warned well-connected donors of the dire impact of the coronavirus pandemic in February while selling off up to $1.6 million of his own stocks.

Burr said in March that he relied on public news reports, not inside information from his role on the Senate committee.

He said he asked the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee "to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency."

Alice Fisher, a lawyer who is advising Burr, said in a statement in March:

"The law is clear that any American — including a senator — may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did. When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry. Senator Burr welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate."

Burr has previously announced he will not seek re-election. He was re-elected in 2016, and the next election for his seat is in 2022.

The furor began after ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, reported that Burr unloaded the stock around mid-February, about a week before the market started to plunge because of coronavirus concerns.

That included selling off up to $150,000 worth of shares in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and $100,000 of shares in another hotel chain, Extended Stay America.

ProPublica discovered, and NBC News has confirmed, the stock sell-offs in Burr's publicly available financial disclosure reports. The exact figures are unclear because the reports offer ranges of transactions.

Disclosure records also show that three other senators sold major holdings around the same time: Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., according to The New York Times.

Loeffler has defended the sales, saying that "investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisers without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement." Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

A Feinstein spokesman in March said that the senator did not sell any stock and that "the transactions you're referencing were made by her spouse."

The spokesman said all of Feinstein's assets are in a blind trust, and it's been that way since she came to the Senate in 1992.

Burr was elected to the House in 1994 and served five terms before being elected to the Senate in 2004.

Burr, 64, told reporters before being re-elected to his third term in 2016 that if he won, he would not run for a fourth term.

Burr, while a Republican, has occasionally taken actions that have angered some of the more fervent supporters of President Donald Trump.

A recently released bipartisan investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee validated a January 2017 U.S. intelligence assessment that described Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election, calling that assessment accurate, thorough and untainted by political bias.

"The committee found no reason to dispute the Intelligence Community's conclusions," Burr said in a statement at the time of the report's release in April. That report by the Republican-run committee examines how the assessment was put together.

On Wednesday night, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a vocal defender of Trump, tweeted about the investigation, using the term "stock selloff collusion."

Gaetz also retweeted a comment from the right-wing media figure Mike Cernovich who wrote that Burr "tormented prominent Trump supporters," including Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. was subpoenaed by Burr's committee in 2019 to answer questions about his past contention that he had only limited knowledge of a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. your social media marketing partner