Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has been questioned by the FBI about stock sales that have raised eyebrows over the possible misuse of inside information.
Feinstein is one of several of senators who sold stocks around the same time lawmakers in the chamber were receiving briefings indicating that the seriousness of the coronavirus was far greater than most Americans knew at the time.
The stock sales came before Wall Street nosedived amid the impact of the virus on the economy.
Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and her husband, investment banker Richard Blum, sold between $1.5 million and $6 million worth of stock in Allogene Therapeutics, a California biotech company, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 18, according to Senate financial disclosure forms.
However, her office has said there was nothing improper in the sales.
“Senator Feinstein was asked some basic questions by law enforcement about her husband’s stock transactions, as I think all offices in the initial story were,” a spokesman told according to Fox News.
“She was happy to voluntarily answer those questions to set the record straight and provided additional documents to show she had no involvement in her husband’s transactions,” the spokesman said. “There have been no follow-up actions on this issue.”
At the time of the initial reports about the stock sales, a spokesman said all of Feinstein’s assets were in a blind trust and she had no hand in any financial transactions undertaken by her husband.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, another major figure in the issue of stock sales, has stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Senator 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,” McConnelll said in a statement Thursday.
“We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”
On Wednesday, Burr was served with a warrant to search his Washington, D.C.- area home. Federal agents also took Burr’s cellphone.
According to Senate disclosure forms, Burr made 33 stock transactions on Feb. 13. The forms do not disclose the exact value of transactions, but provide a range. The sales collectively netted Burr between $628,000 and $1.72 million.
Burr’s attorney, Alice Fisher, has said Burr did nothing wrong.
“The law is clear that any American — including a senator — may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did,” Fisher said in March. “When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry.”
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia is also under scrutiny because between late January and early March, she sold stock shares worth millions of dollars, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A spokesperson for Loeffler told Fox she has sent “documents and information” to the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Senate Ethics Committee, “establishing that she and her husband acted entirely appropriately and observed both the letter and the spirit of the law. The documents and information demonstrated her and her husband’s lack of involvement in their managed accounts, as well the details of those accounts. Senator Loeffler has welcomed and responded to any questions from day one.”
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