If we had a real Justice Department, it would right now be investigating how Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold off over a million dollars worth of stock three weeks ago after telling a private gathering of campaign contributors and other connected folks how bad the impact of Coronavirus would be on our economy. Meanwhile, he was reassuring the public that everything was fine.
According to NPR, which has audio secretly recorded at that gathering:
Thirteen days before the State Department began to warn against travel to Europe, and 15 days before the Trump administration banned European travelers, Burr warned those in the room to reconsider.
“Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel. You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they’re making to Europe is essential or whether it can be done on video conference. Why risk it?” Burr said.
Sixteen days before North Carolina closed its schools over the threat of the coronavirus, Burr warned it could happen.
“There will be, I’m sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, ‘Let’s close schools for two weeks. Everybody stay home,’ ” he said.
And Burr invoked the possibility that the military might be mobilized to combat the coronavirus. Only now, three weeks later, is the public learning of that prospect.
“We’re going to send a military hospital there; it’s going to be in tents and going to be set up on the ground somewhere,” Burr said at the luncheon. “It’s going to be a decision the president and DOD make. And we’re going to have medical professionals supplemented by local staff to treat the people that need treatment.”
That is information he did not share with the general public, keeping it quiet while Trump and his minions lied to us and called the crisis “a hoax.” That’s unconscionable, considering how much it would have helped fight the spread of the virus if action had been taken earlier.
But the criminal aspect comes in his dumping his portfolio, which violated the STOCK act, signed by President Obama in 2012, which bars members of Congress and their staff from using nonpublic information for trades. Guess who voted against that bill? Senator Richard Burr, naturally. According to ProPublica, among the companies whose shares Burr shed in February were Wyndham Hotels and Extended Stay America — both of which have seen their value cut nearly in half by the economic fallout of the Coronavirus.
Not only should DOJ prosecute Burr, it should also look into every single person who attended the event where he shared his disaster prediction.
Update at 10:19pm: The Daily Beast reports that another Republican Senator, Kelly Loeffler, sold even more stock than Burr did after the Senate Health Committee (of which she is a member) was briefed about the impending Coronavirus crisis by administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Health. As if that’s not bad enough, she then spent the next month blaming Democrats for misleading the public on Coronavirus readiness when, in fact, it was the Trump administration, Fox News, and GOPers who were lying about it publicly.