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Report: FBI serves warrant on Burr in investigation of stock sale during coronavirus outbreak

Posted May 13, 2020 10:51 p.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2020 8:29 a.m. EDT

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 8, 2020. Burr sold hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stock in major companies last month, as President Trump and others in his party were still playing down the threat presented by the coronavirus outbreak and before the stock market's precipitous plunge. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

— Federal agents served a search warrant at the Washington, D.C., home of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr on Wednesday night as the investigation continued into stock trades he made in an early stage of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Los Angeles Times reports members of the FBI seized a cellphone belonging to Burr after the search warrant was served.

WRAL News reached out via email late Wednesday to Caitlin Carroll, Burr’s communications director in the Senate, and to a spokesperson for Burr’s personal attorney, who has fielded questions about the investigation since shortly after news of the trades broke in March.

“We’ll decline to comment,” Carroll responded in an email also copied to the personal attorney’s spokesperson.

Burr unloaded up to $1.7 million in publicly traded stocks on Feb. 13, weeks before the stock market dipped over the coronavirus outbreak.

The move contrasted with some of Burr's public comments on the outbreak, including a Feb. 7 op-ed he co-authored, detailing the federal government's preparedness.

The sell-off, detailed in a public filing members of Congress are required to file, had some questioning whether Burr had inside information, potentially through is role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, which received a Jan. 24 briefing on the virus from administration officials.

Last week, ProPublica reported Burr's brother-in-law also sold stock in February, on the same day as Burr. Burr has denied any wrong doing, any coordination with his brother in law and said he relied only on publicly available information to make his trades.

Among other things, The L.A. Times noted in its report Wednesday night that serving a warrant on a sitting U.S. senator wouldn't just take signoff from a judge, but approval from the highest ranks of the U.S. Department of Justice.

That analysis was echoed on social media by Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

"This is a very, very big deal," Bharara said on Twitter Wednesday night. "This is not something the FBI or DOJ does lightly. It requires layers of review, the blessing of a judge, and consideration of severe reputational harm to a sitting US Senator."

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