Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) highly controversial stock sell-off has #Burrisma trending on social media, an obvious reference to the Ukrainian gas company Burisma that has become a household name in American political discourse.
While other senators’ stock sell-offs have garnered scrutiny — Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), to name a few — there appears to be universal, even bipartisan agreement, that Burr’s transaction was particularly suspicious and wrong. On Thursday night, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson called for Burr to either explain himself honestly or resign and face prosecution for insider trading.
Many other conservative voices agreed.
Left and right, #Burrisma is trending Friday on Twitter.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of the existing response.
On Feb. 25, Burr, with Starbucks in hand, acknowledged the camera and was briefed by officials from the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health. Two days later, Burr remarked during a luncheon–which included wealthy donors–that the COVID-19 pandemic was “probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
There was no such dire warning to the general public. As Burr was responding at length to NPR’s report on this, calling it a “hit piece,” reporting about his stock dump emerged and only resulted in more outrage.
It was revealed that two weeks prior to the luncheon Burr and his wife unloaded stocks in industries that have since been particularly hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and concomitant market crash. Per Open Secrets:
Between the Burrs’ two accounts, they sold up to $150,000 worth of stock in Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, which lost almost two-thirds of its market value since Feb. 13. They sold up to $150,000 in Extended Stay America, another hotel company that lost half its value over the last month. Burr also sold up to $65,000 of stock in Park Hotels & Resorts, which saw its stock price drop from nearly $24 to under $5. The hotel industry is asking President Donald Trump for a bailout as Americans increasingly avoid travel.
This sell-off happened a week after Burr co-bylined an op-ed reassuring the American people about the Trump administration’s response; it happened not long after Burr was privy to a Jan. 24 senators-only briefing on the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In a statement released Friday, Burr said he relied “solely on public news reports” in making his investment decisions. He also said he asked the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee to “open a complete review.”
Not everyone was convinced by that either.
[Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
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