Several weeks ago, while President Donald Trump was addressing the nation and saying things like, “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was meeting (per a secret recording obtained by NPR) with a select group of “super donors” who had filled his coffers with at least $100,000 each in donations.
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) told them, “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
He warned them about school closings.
He discussed the likelihood of travel bans, quarantines, even the deployment of military hospital ships like the one recently sent to New York.
For most of us, this disaster came out of nowhere.
As I noted in a recent article about the Corona-virus pandemic,
“Last Monday, I flew home from an annual guy’s trip to Spring Training in Florida. Sure, there were a few hospital masks in the airport, but there always are. Everything seemed normal. By Wednesday evening, there were no professional sports leagues playing anymore, the kids were being shut out of school for a month, and the grocery stores were crowded and picked clean in a way that was part Christmas Eve and part day-before-a blizzard.”
Needless to say, most Americans had their 401k’s shredded in the last 10 days as the stock markets shed more than 30% of their value.
I wonder if those wealthy donors who got to hear the TRUTH from Senator Burr instead of the LIES from President Trump lost a ton of money too? I bet with weeks of advanced warning, they were able to sell stocks and move their money to more stable investments?
Here’s the bottom line:
If those individuals (or the companies they represent) used inside information based on Senate intelligence data to which Burr was privileged to make changes to their investment portfolio (when the information they received in exchange for political donations ran directly contrary to what the President of the United States was telling citizens), those donors committed a crime.
I will expect that the next Attorney General open an investigation.
I will expect that the next Senate (hopefully under Democratic control) takes action against Senator Burr and also refers the matter to the Securities and Exchange Commission for investigation.
People are dying.
People are going bankrupt.
People are being lied to every day.
Yet this rich asshole is making sure his donor list of rich assholes gets the truth and that their money and lives are protected?
It gets better. Not long after this article published, ProPublica reported that Senator Burr sold up to $1.5 million in stock AFTER he was briefed (in his role as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee) on how devastating the pandemic was going to be.
Two of his biggest stock dumps according to the article were his investments in hotel chains Wyndham and Extended Stay, stocks which have both lost between 1/2 to 2/3 of their value since the time he sold based on the pandemic information he received.
But guess what? Members of the House and Senate are NOT subject to the same insider trading rules as the rest of us, and much of the enforcement falls on Congress to discipline its own members, so legally he is likely in no danger. You can’t make this stuff up.
UPDATE #2: The Daily Beast just broke the news that Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) dumped millions of dollars of stock on Jan. 24, the same day her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing. The briefing was provided by the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Health of the United States and focused on the coronavirus.
From the date of the briefing through the middle of February, Loeffler and her husband had 29 reported stock transactions. Of those, 27 were sales. One of the purchases was of stock in Citrix, which is a technology company that offers teleworking software. You know, the kind of software that would make it easier for people to work from home if they were unable to work from their office due to a pandemic.
Loeffler’s husband is the CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange.
Is it a coincidence that Senator Burr’s Twitter profile pic is a cartoon drawing of he and Loeffler sitting side-by-side during the Trump Impeachment Trial in January?
UPDATE #3: On Friday morning, a Fox News report added Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) to the list of senators who sold large quatities of stock within days of receiving the briefing on Coronavirus.
UPDATE #4: Also on Friday morning, MediaIte reported that Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) dumped between $5 million and $25 million in stock on March 2nd. That was the day before The Fed stunningly slashed rates by a half point and two days before the Dow Jones began a slide of nearly 10,000 points.
In 2018, there was an unsuccessful attempt to prohibit members of Congress from even owning stock, as a method of preventing the type of abuse Burr is accused of. The measure failed, but this article from The Intercept gives a clearer picture of the difficulty in holding members of Congress accountable.