Burr cleared in stock sale investigation

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Richard Burr has been cleared in a months-long investigation into stock sales before the coronavirus pandemic took root in the U.S.

A statement from his office said, “Tonight, the Department of Justice informed me that it has concluded its review of my personal financial transactions conducted early last year. The case is now closed. I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.”

A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. The New York Times was first to report on the decision to not bring charges, said the Associated Press.

The investigation escalated in May when the FBI obtained a search warrant to seize a cellphone from Burr. The day after that action became public, Burr said he would step aside as Intelligence Committee chairman while the FBI investigation was ongoing. It is unclear whether he will retake the role as the panel’s top Republican now that he has been cleared.

Burr, who was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee as it conducted its own investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election, has denied wrongdoing in the well-timed stock sales. His lawyer has said he had actively cooperated with the investigation.

Senate records show that he and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to dive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels.

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.