By Vandana Rambaran
Published January 14, 2020
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to open an investigation into whether President Trump tipped off attendees of a Mar-a-Lago event days before he ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which may have resulted in insider trading in defense company stocks or commodities.
Warren, citing a report by the Daily Beast, wrote a letter to the SEC Tuesday, saying that five days before the Jan. 2 strike Trump gave guests at his private resort in Florida "advanced knowledge of potential military action."
Trump allegedly told his associates at Mar-a-Lago that he had been in contact with his senior national security and military advisors to plan something "big" that would tamp down Iran's aggression in the Middle East, following the death of a U.S. defense contractor who was killed in a rocket attack, according to the Daily Beast, who cited anonymous sources recalling conversations with Trump.
"If this report is true, it raises a number of troubling national security questions regarding President Trump's handling of classified and sensitive national security information," Warren wrote.
Her initiative to investigate Trump comes as lawmakers continue to question the motive behind the attack and decry Trump for not consulting Congress before ordering the strike, which has heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.
“Individuals who were guests at President Trump’s resort may have obtained confidential market-moving information,” the letter says. “These private individuals, therefore, would have had the opportunity to obtain significant profits simply by being guests or members at President Trump’s private resort.”
Warren's letter goes on to list several stocks whose prices jumped between the day of the attack, before the strike occurred, to the end of the day on Jan. 3.
Northrop Grumman stock prices increased by over 5 percent and Lockheed Martin’s stock prices increased by 3.6 percent, according to the letter.
"The stock prices of Raytheon, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper's former employer, increased by 1.5%. Additionally, immediately following the killing of Soleimani, the price of crude oil increased by over 4%," Warren wrote.
While it remains uncertain who, if anyone, specifically had advance knowledge of the attack or "whether they may have made any securities or commodities trades based on that information," Warren urged the SEC to look into whether any of the trades violated the Insider Trading Sanctions Act of 1984, which prohibits individuals from purchasing or selling a security while in possession of material, nonpublic information.
Such a crime is punishable by civil penalties of three times the amount of the profit gained or loss avoided or criminal penalties amounting to $5 million or 20 years imprisonment, the letter said.