Two Republican lawmakers are under intense scrutiny as reports show Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler sold millions in stock before the coronavirus outbreak sent the markets in freefall.
Both senators attended briefings on the growing coronavirus outbreak for weeks leading up the national emergency that was declared by President Trump days ago. Burr and Loeffler are each members of the Senate Health Committee, while Burr also serves as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
ProPublica alleged Burr "sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 29 separate transactions" in filings listed in the U.S. Senate Financial Disclosures website as he was regularly being briefed on the rising threat of the virus.
"Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak," a Burr spokesperson told Fox News. "As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy. He supported Congress’ immediate efforts to provide $7.8 billion for response efforts and this week’s bipartisan bill to provide relief for American business and small families.”
This followed another report by NPR, which alleged Burr warned "a small group of well-connected constituents" at a luncheon in late February about the potential impact of the virus, according to a secret recording of the conversation that NPR obtained.
"There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," Burr says in the recording. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."
Burr hit back at NPR's "tabloid-style hit piece" in a lengthy Twitter response.
"NPR knowingly and irresponsibly misrepresented a speech I gave last month about the coronavirus threat," Burr said. "This lunch was hosted on Feb. 27 by the North Carolina State Society. It was publicly advertised and widely attended. NPR knew, but did not report, that attendees also included many non-members, bipartisan congressional staff, and representatives from the governor’s office."
Burr dismissed the notion that the North Carolina State Society is a "high-dollar donor group" and refuted the suggestion that he and other Republicans, including President Trump, were not publicly taking the virus outbreak seriously at the time.
"COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation. To know if we’ve been successful in stemming it, we have to keep an accurate accounting of our nation’s response. Purposefully misleading listeners for the sake of a 'narrative,' like NPR has done, makes us less safe," Burr concluded.
Shortly after, The Daily Beast reported that Loeffler sold stock owned by her and her husband Jan. 24, the same day she sat in on a closed-door Trump administration coronavirus briefing as a member of the Senate Health Committee. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, also attended.
According to the report, Loeffler sold stock in Resideo Technologies "worth between $50,001 and $100,000." The company's stock price "has fallen by more than half" since January.
In addition, 27 out of 29 transactions in February by the Georgia senator and her husband were sales. One stock purchase was in a company called Citrix, a teleworking software company, and was worth between $100,000 and $250,000. The company's stock, as The Daily Beast noted, has seen a bump since the virus outbreak grew.
The report also claims Loeffler and her husband sold jointly owned stock worth between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000 during the Jan. 24-Feb. 14 timespan, according to filed transactions.
Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
Loeffler slammed the "ridiculous and baseless attack" in a pair of late-night tweets.
"This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement," Loeffler wrote. "As confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, I was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020 — three weeks after they were made."