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Rubio to lead Senate Intel Committee amid Burr investigation

Rubio to lead Senate Intel Committee amid Burr investigation
© Greg Nash

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Rubio signals opposition to Biden Cabinet picks MORE (R-Fla.) will take over as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNorth Carolina — still purple but up for grabs North Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report MORE (R-N.C.) stepped aside last week amid a federal investigation into recent stock sales. 

“I am glad to announce that Senator Marco Rubio has accepted my invitation to serve as Acting Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's climate plans can cut emissions and also be good politics Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE (R-Ky.) announced on Monday.

“The senior senator for Florida is a talented and experienced Senate leader with expertise in foreign affairs and national security matters. Senator Rubio was the natural choice for this temporary assignment on the basis of accumulated committee service. His proven leadership on pertinent issues only made the decision easier," McConnell added. 

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Rubio had been viewed as a likely successor to Burr. He's second in line in seniority on the panel after Sen. Jim RischJim Elroy RischWill Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Idaho), who already chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and was viewed as likely to stay put.

Rubio confirmed that he would be serving as chairman in an acting capacity. 

"The Committee has long been one that conducts its work seriously, and I look forward to continuing that tradition," he said in a statement. 

Rubio, who currently chairs the small business panel, acknowledged last week that he was willing to take over the Intelligence Committee at least temporarily as the FBI investigates Burr's transactions. 

Burr's decision to step aside has set off a round of musical chairs on the Senate committees. 

If Risch had taken over the Intelligence Committee gavel, Rubio would have been in line to take over the Foreign Relations Committee. 

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"I'll do whatever they ask but it's not up to me," Rubio told reporters. "I'll do whatever wherever. I mean, they're both great committees — they're my two big ones."

No announcement has been made on who will lead the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

McConnell said on Thursday that Burr had decided to step aside as chairman of the committee pending the outcome of the FBI's investigation.

The Department of Justice has been conducting a probe since March over Burr's sale of up to $1.72 million in stocks earlier this year. The stocks were sold in early February after senators received closed-door briefings on the national threat posed by the coronavirus, before most Americans were warned about the potential economic fallout of the pandemic.

Federal investigators seized Burr's cell phone last week as part of its probe. 

Burr has denied wrongdoing but said that he was stepping down so that the investigation did not distract from the Intelligence Committee's work. 

Rubio's ascension comes at a critical time. The panel is expected to vote on Tuesday on Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeProfiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers Biden considering King for director of national intelligence: report Haspel not in attendance at latest Trump intelligence briefing: reports MORE's (R-Texas) nomination to be the next director of national intelligence. 

Burr and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris shares Thanksgiving recipe: 'During difficult times I have always turned to cooking' Biden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin MORE (D-Va.) also announced on Friday that the committee had submitted the fifth and final volume of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which pertains to its counterintelligence findings, to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for classification review.

The panel also said it submitted nearly 1,000 pages with redaction recommendations in the hopes that it may help speed up the review process for an unclassified version of the report to be approved.

"Senator Rubio has been a great partner on intelligence and national security issues and I look forward to working with him in his new role as Acting Chairman," Warner said Monday.

—Updated at 4:54 p.m.