Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina temporarily stepped down from his position as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The move comes one day after the FBI seized his phone as part of an investigation into whether or not the Republican lawmaker used inside information about the coronavirus pandemic to influence his decision to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in mid-February, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”
FBI agents reportedly received a warrant Wednesday night and seized Burr’s phone at his residence. The senator is accused of using non-public information obtained during cl0sed-door meetings about COVID-19 for financial gain.
While he has denied any wrongdoing and has called for the Ethics Committee to look into the matter, as The Inquisitr previously reported, he said he did use public information to decide to sell his stocks. Critics claim he used information not available to the broader public to sell more than $1 million in stocks shortly before the economic downturn hit the country and the market crashed.
Burr isn’t the only lawmaker accused of using inside information to make financial decisions. Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler from Georgia is also accused of selling stock at the end of January after attending a closed-door meeting that reportedly focused on the impending coronavirus pandemic.
She has also denied the accusation, Fox News reported.
“If you actually look at the personal transaction reports that were filed, it notices at the bottom that I’m only informed of my transactions after they occur — several weeks,” Loeffler said. “So, certainly, those transactions — at least on my behalf — were a mix of buys and sells. Very routine for my portfolio.”
Senators James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, and Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, have also been accused of selling stocks. They both deny any wrongdoing. While law enforcement officials have questioned Feinstein, no further action has been taken against her.
Burr has yet to comment on the seizure of his phone and his replacement on the Intelligence committee has yet to be announced. He has already stated he doesn’t plan to run for reelection in 2022 when his term ends.