Burr won't recover from stock scandal
It's equally true in politics and firefighting: The smoke can kill you quicker than the flames.
Whether or not Sen. Richard Burr faces insider trading charges, and whether or not he's ultimately convicted, the scandal from his February stock dump is enough to effectively end his career on Capitol Hill.
Burr resigned his Senate Intelligence Committee chairmanship Thursday after the FBI seized his cellphone for a widening probe into his stock trades. The North Carolina Republican is suspected of having used privileged information to prevent steep losses as the coronavirus pandemic spread to the United States.
Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in stocks on Feb. 13, according to financial disclosures first reported by ProPublica. On the same day, brother-in-law Gerald Fauth unloaded stocks valued between $97,000 and $280,000.
A week later, the market tanked amid dire predictions that COVID-19 would derail America's high-octane economy. Burr's sale included holdings in two hotel chains whose share prices plunged as virus fears slowed travel and tourism spending.
As a powerful committee chair, Burr had access to classified information and received briefings on the coronavirus' likely economic impacts. He has denied wrongdoing and said he based his decisions on published news reports about the pandemic.
FBI agents are reportedly scouring Burr's phone for communication with his broker who executed the sell-offs in 33 separate transactions. A search warrant targeting a sitting U.S. senator is such a sensitive matter that top Department of Justice officials must have given the green light.
Burr has faced more scrutiny than three Senate colleagues -- Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California and Republicans Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and James Inhofe of Oklahoma -- who also sold significant portions of their portfolios days before the market went belly up.
As if Burr had caught the virus himself, fellow Republicans are maintaining a strict social distance. Thom Tillis, North Carolina's junior senator, who's up for reelection this year, said last month that Burr "owes everybody in North Carolina and the United States an explanation."
President Donald Trump's supporters see Burr as disloyal for the flashes of independence he showed during the intelligence panel's probe of Russian election interference. Burr issued a subpoena compelling Donald Trump Jr. to testify before the committee, a move that likely angered the president.