Reports GOP senators dumped stock spark calls to resign

Richard Burr wearing glasses and smiling at the camera Sen. Richard Burr speaks during a March 3 committee hearing on Capitol Hill

Stefani Reynolds Bloomberg Sen. Richard Burr speaks during a March 3 committee hearing on Capitol Hill

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review his sales of hundreds of thousands of dollars of stocks last month ahead of the economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, but he's not the only senator facing scrutiny over stock sales. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on January 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus.

Ms Loeffler said she was informed of the transactions three weeks after they occurred and that she is not involved in investment decisions for her portfolio. The senator is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange.

As the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Burr receives much of the same daily reporting on threats to the country that the White House gets, and so he would have been apprised of the government's internal predictions.

Under the STOCK Act, lawmakers and their staff are prohibited from making trades based on nonpublic information.

News of the financial moves of Loeffler came just hours after the news of similar financial moves made by Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, who attended the same January briefing. The also sold off stocks in the retail store chain Ross, auto parts seller Autozone, manufacturer Catepillar Inc. and Delta Airlines.

In a tweet early Friday morning, Loeffler said the report was a "ridiculous & baseless attack".

Loeffler had already been criticized for potential conflicts of interest when she was appointed.

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Carlson said that although Burr may have "an honest explanation" for his actions, the onus was on the longtime Republican lawmaker to quickly provide an answer for the public.

Two weeks after Burr and his wife sold stock, NPR reports Burr sounded the alarm about the virus at a private event.

Among those calling for his resignation and investigation are Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has historically been a vocal supporter of the Trump administration.

The reports on Burr, a respected Republican veteran of the Senate who is retiring in January, added fuel to accusations that Trump and the USA leadership knew of the serious threat but delayed action that could have curbed the spread of infections.

Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler sold US$1.28 million to US$3.1 million in stocks from Jan 24 through mid-February in 29 transactions, two of which were purchases, according to The Daily Beast. She denied that she sold off the stocks, tweeting that it was handled by "multiple third-party advisors".

John Ross, a senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute at Renmin University of China, joined Radio Sputnik's Political Misfits on Friday to discuss the allegations of insider trading and offer expert advice on how the administration of US President Donald Trump can lessen the inevitable death toll from the novel coronavirus in the states.

"He needs to resign", she said. He dumped his shares in hotel stocks so he wouldn't lose money. But we don't think Burr's efforts to reassure the public about USA preparedness contradict his warnings about serious consequences.

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