Two weeks before the State Department issued hastily written restrictions barring most European citizens from entering the United States, Republican Sen. Richard Burr told a private group of paying constituents that the emerging COVID-19 pandemic was likely to be more severe than he and other Republican lawmakers were letting on in public.
Now ProPublica is reporting that Burr engaged in a 29-transaction stock selling spree on Feb. 13, two weeks before even that private admission. The stocks Burr got rid of were worth between $0.5-1.5 million dollars, a significant percentage or possibly even a majority of his total net worth.
Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, is one of the "Gang of 8"—the eight lawmakers in the House and Senate briefed on the most sensitive government secrets. As such, Burr was likely privy to information about COVID-19 spread and preparedness efforts that even most lawmakers may not have been briefed on.
Although a 2012 law, the STOCK Act, prohibits members of Congress from profiting from non-public information given to them in the course of their government duties, the law has numerous loopholes. In any case, Barr's wealth-saving trades—which took place one week before the stock markets began their current precipitous drop—are likely to be closely examined.