Burr to leave top Senate Intelligence post amid probe of stock sales
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is stepping down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee as a federal probe of his financial activities in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic heats up.Posted — Updated
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Thursday that 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.
"We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day [Friday]," McConnell said.
"The work the Intelligence Committee and its members do is too important to risk hindering in any way," Burr said in a statement. "I believe this step is necessary to allow the committee to continue its essential work free of external distractions."
The sales contrasted with some of Burr's public comments on the outbreak, including a Feb. 7 op-ed he co-authored for Fox News, detailing the federal government's preparedness.
The moves prompted some to question whether Burr had inside information about the pandemic through his Senate Intelligence role. The committee received a Jan. 24 briefing on the growing coronavirus outbreak from administration officials.
Members of Congress cannot legally use information they get as part of their service for financial gain.
"From the outset, Senator Burr has been focused on an appropriate and thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate," Alice Fisher, an attorney for Burr, said in a statement.
"Senator Burr does owe all of us an explanation, and this is clear evidence that an investigation’s underway. We just need to see where the investigation leads," Tillis said in a Charlotte radio interview Thursday.
"I don’t think he really has provided a proper explanation of really what he was taking in and why the decision was made when it was made," Bob Phillips, executive director of good-government group Common Cause North Carolina, said Thursday. "It’s such a large amount of stock to be selling at a time."
Democrats want more than an explanation, saying Burr should resign his seat.
North Carolina Republican Party officials didn't respond to a request for comment.
Burr previously announced that he wouldn't seek election to a fourth six-year term in 2022.
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