Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who unloaded as much as $1.56 million in stock before the crash
Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who unloaded as much as $1.56 million in stock before the crash
Photo: Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have started to review the sale of stock by lawmakers like Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina before the markets crashed over concerns about covid-19, according to a new report from CNN. Burr and other Republican senators received a closed-door briefing about the threat of covid-19 on January 24 and some started to unload millions in stock, long before most Americans understood that the coronavirus pandemic could devastate the U.S. economy.

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The FBI has reached out to Burr, chair of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, who sold as much as $1.56 million in stock, according to CNN. A lawyer for Burr sent CNN a statement on Sunday insisting that the senator had done nothing illegal.

The law is clear that any Americanincluding a Senator—may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did,” Burr’s lawyer, Alice Fisher, told CNN.

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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,” Fisher continued.

Fisher was Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the DOJ under George W. Bush. Fisher was also one of the key lawyers at DOJ under Bush who helped set up the legal framework to justify the use of torture for detainees during the so-called War on Terror.

The high-level meeting for Republicans on January 24 included CDC Director Robert R. Redfield and Anthony Fauci, one of the Trump regime’s top advisers during the covid-19 crisis. Dr. Fauci has been seen as one of the lone voices of medical reason during President Trump’s erratic and dangerously misinformed press conferences.

It’s not clear whether other U.S. politicians besides Burr who also sold stock are currently being investigated. Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia sold between $1.2 million and $3.1 million in stock before the crash, and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, sold at least $18 million, despite failing to note his stock sales as part of his wife’s legally mandated financial disclosures. Sprecher is a Republican donor and chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

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“I want to set the record straight: This is 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,” Loeffler tweeted after the sales became public knowledge.

Loeffler was previously the CEO of blockchain company Bakkt and only became a senator after being appointed by Georgia’s governor in January. Loeffler spent much of February and early March downplaying the threat from covid-19 to the U.S., all while selling off millions in stock. Loeffler insists that she didn’t know about the sales.

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“Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” Loeffler tweeted on February 28. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”

And here was a tweet by Loeffler from March 10, insisting that the U.S. economy was strong:

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At least two other politicians reportedly sold stock in the lead up to the market crash. The husband of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, sold anywhere from $1.5 million to $6 million in stock. And Republican Senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma sold up to $750,000 in stock. Both Feinstein and Inhofe have denied any wrongdoing.

Senators Loeffler, Feinstein, and Inhofe have not been contacted by the FBI, according to CNN.

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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