Calls are growing for a number of U.S. senators to resign, following reports they sold millions of dollars’ worth of stocks after receiving privileged briefings about the threat of coronavirus to the global economy. ProPublica reports Republican Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, unloaded as much as $1.7 million of his holdings on February 13 in 33 separate transactions. At the time, he had access to classified information about the coronavirus and was receiving daily intelligence briefings. The stock market began plummeting a week after Burr’s sales and has since lost about 30% of its value.
At least four other senators also sold major holdings ahead of the crash: Republicans James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, as well as Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Senator Feinstein is also on the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Loeffler is married to the chair and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.
The news came as NPR published a secretly recorded audiotape of Senator Burr addressing business leaders and members of the elite Tar Heel Circle at a luncheon in the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on February 27, when there were just 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.
Sen. Richard Burr: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history. It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
After the NPR and ProPublica stories broke, the hashtag #BurrMustResign trended on social media, and even far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson called for Senator Burr’s resignation.