Richard Burr: Republican senator accused of insider trading as coronavirus hit economy ‘has phone seized by FBI’

Senate intelligence committee chair denies claims he sold stocks based on insider information about Covid-19 damage

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 14 May 2020 10:04 BST
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Federal agents have seized US senator Richard Burr’s phone as part of a Justice Department investigation into stock transactions he made before the coronavirus caused an economic downturn.

The North Carolina Republican turned his phone over to agents after a search warrant was served on Wednesday at his Washington home, said the LA Times, who cited an unnamed official.

Mr Burr denies claims that he broke a law designed to stop Congress members from trading on inside information, amid reports that he and other senators sold off shares after being briefed on the risks of the coronavirus crisis.

The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman says his stock transactions were based on news reports and public information, and not his committee.

Mr Burr’s actions surrounding the coronavirus and his intelligence committee position have been scrutinised since the senator sold up to $1.7m (£1.4m) in stocks in February, as Congress and the White House began to assess the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Burr said that he would ask the Senate Ethics Committee to review the stock transactions he made after his transactions became public.

The move marks a notable step forward in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into the claims, with warrants served on sitting US senators needing permission from the highest ranks of the Justice Department.

Another law enforcement official told the LA Times that prior to the warrant on Wednesday, the FBI had served a warrant to iPhone maker Apple Inc to get information from Mr Burr’s iCloud account.

That data provided evidence that law enforcement agents used to obtain the warrant for the senator’s phone, the report added.

Other senators, including Kelly Loeffler, are also alleged to have made similar transactions in the aftermath of closed door briefings on the coronavirus.

Mr Burr reportedly told a private luncheon in late February that the coronavirus “is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic”, according to NPR a leaked recording of the exchange obtained by NPR.

At the time, both Mr Burr and Donald Trump continued to play-down the threat to Americans.

The Justice Department, the FBI and Apple have not commented.

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