Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) unloaded upwards of $1.56 million in stock after receiving confidential briefings regarding the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Burr, who is the senior senator from North Carolina and plans to retire in 2022, dumped thousands of dollars worth of stocks on Feb. 13—less than a week before the stock market sharply dropped because of the coronavirus pandemic. The senator’s timely decision to sell, which was first reported by ProPublica, netted him between $628,000 and $1.72 million.
Much of those shares are now worth a fraction of their price when Burr opted to sell. For instance, the prior investment Burr had in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which was worth upwards of $150,000, is now valued at two-thirds that price. Similarly, the nearly $100,000 worth of stock in Extended Stay America that Burr disposed of in February is now estimated to be worth over 50 percent less.
Those transactions, 33 in total, that Burr conducted came as the intelligence committee was receiving daily briefings on the spread of the coronavirus. During February, in particular, Burr and his colleagues on Capitol Hill were closely monitoring the situation unfolding.
It remains unclear if the senator was briefed on the growing pandemic directly or preceding his decision to sell. On the day in question, though, deaths resulting from the Coronavirus grew to more than 1,400, and the Centers for Disease Control warned the ailment could be spread from those not exhibiting symptoms—developments unlikely to have escaped the intelligence committee’s notice.
More troubling is that the senator’s private actions differed from his public statements on the coming pandemic. Less than a week before Burr shed investments likely to lose value because of the virus, the senator penned an op-ed urging voters to have trust in the federal government’s preparedness.
“No matter the outbreak or threat, Congress and the federal government have been vigilant in identifying gaps in its readiness efforts and improving its response capabilities,” Burr wrote with his colleague, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
The revelations come as the senator faces criticism for other private actions he took in the weeks leading up to the pandemic reaching crisis level. Most notably, Burr came under fire Tuesday after it emerged he’d warned North Carolina business leaders not to take the virus lightly during a closed door meeting in Washington, D.C.
“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,” the senator said on Feb. 27, according to a recording obtained by NPR. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect more accurate data on Burr’s stock sales. According to ProPublica, “Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million in 33 separate transactions, not between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings in 29 separate transactions” as their story originally said. This article’s headline and text has been updated with these new figures.