WASHINGTON (WNCN) – Sen. Richard Burr is stepping down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after the FBI seized his cellphone as part of a probe into controversial stock sales at the induction of COVID-19 in the United States.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a statement that said Burr informed him earlier Thursday about his decision to step aside as chairman.
“We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective a the end of the day tomorrow,” McConnell said.
On Wednesday, the Republican North Carolina senator turned over his phone as federal agents served a search warrant at his Washington home.
The FBI reached out to Burr in late March to determine whether he exploited advance information when he dumped as much as $1.7 million in stocks in the days before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the economy.
Burr’s selloff amounted to between $628,000 and $1.72 million. The stock sales were first reported by ProPublica and The Center for Responsive Politics. He was one of several senators whose financial dealings generated scrutiny in recent months.
Burr has denied wrongdoing and requested an ethics review of the stock sales.
In a statement, Alice Fisher, an attorney for Burr, said, “The law is clear that any American -– including a Senator -– may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did.
Burr has acknowledged selling the stocks because of the coronavirus but said he relied “solely on public news reports,” specifically CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of Asia, to make the financial decisions.
There is no indication that Burr, whose six-year term ends in 2023 and who does not plan to run for reelection, was acting on inside information.