If Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is not prosecuted by the Department of Justice for insider trading, then the Stock Act is “meaningless,” warned Peter Schweizer, senior contributor to Breitbart News and author of Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite.
Schweizer joined Friday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host John Hayward to discuss Burr’s selling of between $628,000 and $1.72 million in stock ahead of coronavirus-related market declines.
“Richard Burr’s [stock sell-off] is a classic case of insider trading,” determined Schweizer. “If Richard Burr was an executive at a corporation and he had received a closed door briefing that said a company’s sales were going to go down dramatically, and he sold pretty much all of his stock, it would be insider trading.”
“The Intelligence Committee got closed door briefings about the coronavirus that were pretty apocalyptic, and on February the 13th, [Richard Burr] decided to unload stock,” noted Schweizer, highlighting Burr’s role as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I believe there were 33 transactions, all of them sales, none of them were buys, and the part that is particularly troubling is the sales amount to at least half of his entire net worth.”
Schweizer continued, In other words, [Richard Burr] is almost liquidating all the stock that he owns. So it’s a dramatic move, and yet, he is publicly telling people — he wrote an op-ed for Fox News, he was telling people in interviews — that this is really not a big deal.”
“He clearly realizes he’s been caught,” said Schweizer of Burr. “He admits that he did the trades, and what he’s now going to try to do is get this pushed off to the Senate Ethics Committee, which frankly, it’d be like you or me getting in trouble and saying well, ‘We’re going to let our family take a look at this and decide on our punishments.’ Nothing is going to happen with the Senate Ethics Committee of substance.”
Schweizer added, “In my mind, it needs to be investigated and there needs to be a prosecution by the Department of Justice.”
“The Stock Act was passed with the critical support of [Andrew] Breitbart,” recalled Schweizer. “Andrew Breitbart was alive at this time and pushed very, very hard for it, and was one of the earliest people behind it. What the Stock Act basically did, passed in 2012, is it extended insider trading laws to members of Congress and their staffs, and what it basically said was that if you are trading stock based on non-public information that you have access to, you can be prosecuted for insider trading. It also required more detailed reporting by elected officials.
The Stock Act also requires disclosure of stock market transactions every 30 days, added Schweizer.
Burr’s stock sell-off meets the criteria for an investigation according to Securities Exchange Commission standards, Schweizer remarked. “If there were ever the sort of case that would warrant this, it would be Senator Burr, because what you look for is a couple of things, and this is based on insider trading [laws] on Wall Street. First of all, does a person make a series of highly unusual and highly successful trades that are well timed? Well in Burr’s case, absolutely. He dumps massive amounts of his stock, and that stock, over the next couple of weeks, dropped by more than 30 percent. So he literally saved himself hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.”
Burr’s behavior also qualifies as an unusual trade given the senator’s prior conduct, observed Scheweizer, “If you look at [Richard Burr’s] trading history going back several years, you cannot find a similar type of transaction.”
“Does [Richard Burr] have access to non-public information?” asked Schweizer. “In other words, does he have information [about] something that’s going to adversely affect the economy [or] stock market that is not out there in the public? Absolutely, he did. We know he got these private briefings, and we know that in some cases, the next day after briefings, he was dumping stock. So to me, it’s a clear-cut case, and any attempt to kind of muddy the water or have the Senate Ethics Committee sort of slap his wrist is just wrong. None of us would get the benefit of that, why should a United States senator?”
“I think the Department of Justice should open an investigation,” advised Schweizer. “He’s admitted that he himself made the trades. He’s not using the defense that some other people are using, which is that, ‘Well, my broker did it.’ He’s admitting that he made the trades. What he’s saying is, ‘I based those trades on public information,’ which kind of makes him a Svengali, because at this time in February, the stock market is near an all-time high, and the coronavirus [was] not really something that people [were] aware of.
Schweizer went on, “They were aware of it in China, but nobody was talking about the sort of apocalyptic numbers publicly at that time [as] they are now, so to me, the evidence is pretty clear, and if you look at the people who have been prosecuted on insider trading charges elsewhere, there’s far less evidence than there is in this case.”
Schweizer estimated, “Senator Burr should resign from office, and if he’s not going to resign from office, I think it’s incumbent upon the Senate leadership to make an example of him that this is not acceptable behavior, and,at least censure him or even throw him out of the body if those rules apply, but he needs to be prosecuted, or these laws and rules are meaningless. They are meaningless if they’re not going to be enforced. “
Corrupt congressional self-enrichment includes funneling taxpayer funds to corporations politicians and officials are invested in, explained Schweizer.
“Look at the giant massive bailout bill that the House has put together, that the Senate is voting on, [and] that the president’s probably going to sign,” recommended Schweizer. “These are massive bills with all kinds of intricate details concerning industries. … The people writing that legislation [and] voting on that legislation [are] buying and selling stock in these very companies that they are bailing out.”
The reason “bailouts” are directed to “large publicly traded corporations” and not “mom and pop restaurants around the street,” assessed Schweizer, is that politicians own stock in large public companies and not in small local businesses.
Politicians and government officials must place their investments into blind trusts to avoid such aforementioned abuses of power, Schweizer concluded.
“This is a huge problem,” determined Schweizer. “The only way to deal with it — and it’s not a perfect solution — is that any elected official or senior government official that has any assets — let’s say above a hundred thousand dollars — they should all be put into a blind trust with a sworn deposition under the penalty of a felony that you will not talk to the trustees of your trust about anything.”
Schweizer remarked, “That’s the only way you’re going to nip this in the bud, because it is something that occurs all the time, and people that are rewriting healthcare law or rewriting the defense budget should not be allowed to be trading stock in the very companies that are going to be affected by the bills.”
“What the political class is telling us is, you know, ‘Trust us. We didn’t do it. This just needs to go away,’ and nobody else in America is allowed to do that other than these people,” Schweizer said.
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