Sen. Richard Burr asked an ethics panel Friday to probe suspiciously timed stock trades he executed that have led to calls for his resignation.
The North Carolina Republican said he requested a Senate Ethics Committee review of his sales of up to $1.7 million in shares on Feb. 13. Burr, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, was getting daily briefings around that time about the coronavirus threat before the disease sent global markets into a tailspin — timing that has led critics to accuse him of improperly enriching himself off a national crisis.
“Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight … 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,” Burr said in a statement Friday.
Burr said his stock sales were guided only by public news reports about the virus crisis, particularly reporting out of CNBC’s Asia bureaus.
Spokespeople for Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the ethics committee chairman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the panel would open a review.
Both Burr and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) — who also sold shares ahead of the recent market collapse after attending a coronavirus briefing — faced mounting calls to resign Friday over their stock trades.
Some Democratic officials said Burr and Loeffler should be investigated and potentially disciplined — or even face criminal charges — for the transactions. The senators have defended their trades.
But critics have weighed in from both sides of the aisle.
“It is stomach-churning that the first thoughts these Senators had to a dire & classified #COVID briefing was how to profit off this crisis,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said on Twitter Thursday night.
“I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat,” tweeted Charlie Kirk, a prominent conservative activist and chair of Students for Trump. “If you trade with inside info to enrich yourself during a crisis you are a disgrace. Resign, apologize, and donate all earnings to families of victims of China Virus.”
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) also made hefty stock sales in the weeks leading up to the crash. Both senators have said they were not directly involved in the decisions.