WASHINGTON —Several U.S. senators sold off significant amounts in stocks shortly before financial markets plunged because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The senators were briefed about the spread of coronavirus ahead of their sales.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and is a member of the Senate Health Committee, dumped somewhere between $598,000 and $1.62 million in stocks in February, according to publicly available financial disclosure reports.
Just days before starting to sell his stocks on Feb. 4, Burr penned a Fox News op-ed with Sen. Lamar Alexander, writing that the country was "better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats."
And, according to NPR's Thursday reporting, a couple weeks later, on Feb. 27, Burr informed a gathering at a luncheon that the coronavirus is "much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history." at a time when President Donald Trump was still responding to the disease's spread in what some have described as an overly optimistic manner.
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“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” Burr's spokesperson told ProPublica. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”
Senators received a closed-door briefing on the risks of the coronavirus on Feb. 12, the day before Burr began many of his stock sales.
The Daily Beast later Thursday first reported that Loeffler and her husband sold stocks starting the same day she participated in a briefing on coronavirus, Jan. 24, as part of over about two dozen transactions through mid-February. Those amounted to between $1 million and $2.5 million in February, according to Loeffler's financial disclosures.
On March 10, Loeffler tweeted "The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe."
Loeffler tweeted a statement on Twitter early Friday, calling the reporting "a ridiculous & baseless attack."
"I don’t make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement," she wrote, adding she was informed of the transactions "three weeks after they were made."
I want to set the record straight: This is a ridiculous & baseless attack. I don’t make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement.
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) March 20, 2020
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., also sold stocks earlier this year ahead of the market downturn, according to their financial disclosures. Feinstein along with her husband sold between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 in stock in February
Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer told Fox News Feinstein's assets are in a blind trust and, "She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”
Inhofe sold between $50,001 and $100,000 in stock in February.
The news had even progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and conservative Fox host Tucker Carlson in agreement: Burr should resign from Congress.
“Maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with the rest of us immediately," Carlson said on his show Thursday evening. "Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading. There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis, and that appears to be what happened."
Tucker Carlson calls for Senator Burr to resign and await prosecution for insider trading if he cannot provide a reasonable explanation for his actions. He goes on to say it appears that Senator Burr betrayed his country in a time of crisis pic.twitter.com/q7yJa5wjuA
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) March 20, 2020
"Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors, while assuring the public that we were fine," Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. "THEN he sold off $1.6 million in stock before the fall."
"He needs to resign," she said.
Ocasio-Cortez added later after the report on Loeffler surfaced that she should also resign.
And former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro tweeted, "Senators Burr and Loeffler should be investigated by authorities and the Senate Ethics Committee. If the evidence suggests they engaged in insider trading, they should be charged and stand trial."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Burr, Loeffler sold stocks ahead of coronavirus market crash