Politics

The DOJ will not prosecute Senator Richard Burr for any stock trades he made after receiving the Covid information

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) leaves the U.S. Capitol after voting in Washington, United States on May 14, 2020.

Erin Scott | Reuters

The Justice Department will not prosecute Senator Richard Burr in connection with stock deals the North Carolina Republican conducted following the Covid-19 briefing last year, just before the coronavirus pandemic rocked the U.S. economy.

The investigation into Burr had included the highly unusual seizure of his cell phone by the FBI in May and resulted in his resignation that same month as chairman of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee.

"Tonight, the Justice Department informed me that they had completed their review of my personal financial transactions that were carried out early last year," Burr said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

"The case is now closed. I'm glad to hear that. My focus has been and is to work for the people of North Carolina for our nation during this difficult time," said Burr.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

However, a DOJ official confirmed to NBC News that the investigation has been terminated.

The news came from President Donald Trump in office last night.

The probe closure appears to end a controversy that erupted last March when the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic began to hit the United States.

Burr was one of several senators who raised the eyebrows of stock deals made on their accounts after receiving information warning of the potential effects of Covid but before the pandemic spread rapidly.

Unlike the other Senators, Kelly Loeffler from Georgia, Dianne Feinstein from California, and James Inhofe from Oklahoma, however, Burr did not deny that he had decided to sell the stock himself or that coronavirus concerns were his main driver behind the sale .

Only Burr has been the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the DOJ for his stock deals. The other three, who, like Burr, had denied any wrongdoing, were told in May that they would face no criminal charges.

Members of Congress are prohibited by law from using non-public information obtained through their official positions to personally benefit from the exchange.

The STOCK Act, which codified this ban, was signed by President Barack Obama in 2012 after he passed the Senate 96-3 in favor. Burr was one of three "no" votes to this bill

As chairman of the intelligence agency, Burr gained access to classified intelligence reports containing strong warnings about the coronavirus in January and February 2020.

On February 13 last year, Burr unloaded stocks valued at $ 630,000 to $ 1.7 million, with 33 individual trades on that day. The stocks he sold made up a significant part of his financial portfolio.

A week later, stock markets plunged into fears that the pandemic could cripple the global economy. The Bellwhether Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 30% of its value in the weeks following the Burrs Trades.

ProPublica reported that the day Burr sold his shares, his brother-in-law Gerald Fauth himself was selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of shares.

Fauth was named by Trump in 2017 to a seat on the three-member National Mediation Board, a federal agency that facilitates working relationships for the transportation industry.

At the time of the ProPublica report, Burr's attorney Alice Fisher told the news agency that Burr "did not coordinate his decision to trade with Fauth."

"From the outset, Senator Burr has focused on doing an appropriate and thorough factual review on this matter to determine whether his actions were appropriate," Fisher said at the time.

Burr had said in late March, "I relied solely on public news to make my decision about selling stocks."

"In particular, I was closely following CNBC's daily health and science coverage from the Asia offices at the time," he said.

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