The Department of Justice ended its investigation into a series of stock trades made by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively clearing the lawmaker of any wrongdoing, according to several reports.
The New York Times first reported that federal investigators at the department and the Securities and Exchange Commission had informed Burr they would not pursue insider trading charges after months of investigation.
“Tonight, the Department of Justice informed me that it has concluded its review of my personal financial transactions conducted early last year,” Burr said in a statement obtained by the Times. “The case is now closed. I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.”
Burr, then the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, first drew scrutiny in March after ProPublica reported he dumped hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions, of dollars in stock holdings in February, shortly after Congress began receiving intelligence briefings on the threat of the coronavirus. Critics had alleged Burr and several other lawmakers from both parties may have acted on private government information to make financial decisions.
The lawmaker denied any impropriety but stepped down from his post on the committee during the course of the probe. He faced one of the most intense investigations, however, and in May the FBI seized his cellphone, an extreme move for a member of Congress that had to be personally approved by Attorney General William Barr.
The stock sales came just before the market fell dramatically amid nationwide shutdowns as COVID-19 cases began to spread around the U.S. The trades homed in on industries that would ultimately be ravaged by the pandemic, potentially saving Burr and his colleagues massive financial losses. The pandemic has not eased — more than 400,000 people int the country have now died of the virus — but the stock market has since largely rebounded.
Burr is set to retire in 2022 but may step back into his role on the Intelligence Committee or other leadership positions in the chamber, the Times added.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who recently lost her reelection fight, was also investigated after she sold millions in stocks with her husband last February. An investigation into those trades ended in May with no charges, and Loeffler said she would divest from all individual stocks after the scandal.
Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also faced investigations, but they were closed as well.
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