Republican Sen. Richard Burr is facing calls to resign after selling up to $1.6 million in stocks following briefing meetings on the now-global coronavirus pandemic. Burr sold his holdings in mid-February, just days after reassuring the American public that the U.S. government was prepared to handle the public health crisis, ProPublica reported. Around the same time, Burr had alerted his wealthy constituents that the virus would be “more akin to the 1918 [flu] pandemic,” according to a secret recording obtained by NPR. “It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,”
Senators from both parties were briefed in January on the seriousness of the virus by Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Burr, who is also chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also received daily updates from agencies monitoring the spread of the virus.
The senator now faces backlash from Congressional Democrats, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called for his resignation. “Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors, while assuring the public that we were fine. THEN he sold off $1.6 million in stock before the fall,” she wrote on Twitter.
Likewise, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro urged Burr to step aside from his role as chairman of the Intelligence Committee pending an investigation, stating “I know that our committee receives sensitive information, including assessments and projections, before others in Congress and the general public (if ever).”
Three other senators also sold off holdings around the same time, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Kelly Loeffler (pictured above), and James Inhofe. Loeffler, a member of the Senate Health Committee sold between $1.275 million and $3.1 million following the January briefing, which she also attended. Between then and February 14, Loeffler reported selling the stock with her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, The Daily Beast reports.
After unloading millions of dollars in holdings, Loeffler used her Twitter platform in late February to reassure Americans that the Trump administration was “doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.” In a series of tweets Thursday night, Loeffler defended the sales, and called outrage over reports that she had sold her stocks "a ridiculous & baseless attack."
I want to set the record straight: This is a ridiculous & baseless attack. I don’t make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement.— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) March 20, 2020
Meanwhile, 48 states have declared states of emergency as the number of positive coronavirus tests continues to grow and doctors and nurses face a shortage of the necessary protective equipment to fight it. President Donald Trump has also declared a national state of emergency, with the federal government warning that the pandemic could last 18 months or longer, as the virus impacts every aspect of our daily lives.
People took to the internet to express their outrage. On Friday morning, “Lock Them All Up” and “Insider Traitor” both trended on Twitter, as people called attention to the fact that public officials profited off the deadly public health disaster, while spreading misinformation about its dire impacts.