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Burr requests ethics investigation into stock sale, denies wrongdoing

Burr requests ethics investigation into stock sale, denies wrongdoing
© Bonnie Cash

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrAs Trump downplayed the virus publicly, memo based on private briefings sparked stock sell-offs: NYT Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs MORE (R-N.C.) is requesting that the Senate Ethics Committee launch an investigation into his stock trading history after reports that he sold off millions in personal stocks the week before the stock market began its steep dive amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement posted to his Twitter account Thursday, Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, denied using classified information to reach his decision to offload his stocks before the market plummeted. 

“I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13,” Burr said in a statement. “Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency.”

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Shortly after Burr released his statement, the hashtag “#Burrisma” began to trend on Twitter.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenators push for Turkey sanctions after reports Ankara used Russian system to detect US-made jets McConnell: Plan is to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick before election COVID outbreak threatens GOP's Supreme Court plans MORE (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The six members of the panel have yet to comment publicly on Burr’s call for an investigation.

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According to financial disclosures, Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in stocks within days of the Senate holding a briefing on Jan. 24 with administration officials on the coronavirus outbreak.

Inhofe and Feinstein later said that they were not present at the briefing. Loeffler defended her actions, saying that her investment decisions are made by third-party advisers.

After the reports first circulated Thursday afternoon about Burr's stock transaction activity, several Democratic lawmakers called for an investigation into him — and even for his resignation.

“As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I know that our committee receives sensitive information, including assessments and projections, before others in Congress and the general public (if ever),” Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroFormer DNC finance chairman Henry Muñoz: Latinos 'need to lead ourselves' Overnight Defense: Trump says he's leaving Walter Reed, 'feeling really good' after COVID-19 treatment | White House coronavirus outbreak grows | Dems expand probe into Pompeo speeches House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo's political speeches MORE (D-Texas) tweeted. “Senator Burr should suspend his chairmanship pending investigation.”

Progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate Biden distances himself from Green New Deal during town hall Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts MORE (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, said Friday that members of Congress should not be allowed to purchase individual stock.

On Thursday evening, conservative commentator Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonThe Memo: Trump searches for path to comeback Trump to hold rally Monday in Florida despite his COVID-19 case Trump calls into Rush Limbaugh's show for two hours MORE also said Burr should resign if he can't explain his actions.

“Maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did; if there is, he should share it with the rest of us immediately,” Carlson said on Fox News. “Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading.”

—Updated at 11:42 a.m.