Sen. Richard Burr is stepping down from his position as Senate Intelligence Committee chairman in the midst of a Justice Department investigation into the North Carolina Republican’s stock trades.
“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,” McConnell said in a statement.
“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.”
The announcement comes a day after federal agents seized Burr’s cellphone on Wednesday night, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A law enforcement official said the FBI agents served a warrant to Apple earlier to obtain information from Burr’s iCloud account as evidence to obtain a warrant for his phone.
Another official speaking on anonymity told the Los Angeles Times the Justice Department was looking into communications between Burr and his broker.
Burr is one of the senators being investigated for stock transactions he made prior to the steep market declines seen amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“The inquiry, which is still in its early stages and being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades, according to one of the sources,” CNN reported on April 29.
ProPublica reported that Burr’s brother-in-law also sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of sales on the same day Burr made his sales.
The Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 makes it illegal for members of Congress and congressional staff to use any information they gained through their positions for their own financial benefit.
Burr was among the three senators who opposed the bill when it passed in a 96-3 vote.
Burr has denied any wrongdoing and requested an ethics review of the sales.
He acknowledged that the sales were because of the coronavirus but said that he relied “solely on public news reports” to inform his decision.
Alice Fisher, a lawyer for Burr, told CNN that Burr “welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”
“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. “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.”
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