Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on Thursday that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) will be stepping down from his position as Senate Intelligence Committee chair effective Friday, while investigators probe the enormous stock sales he made shortly before COVID-19 shattered the economy.
“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation,” McConnell said in a statement. “We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”
Burr told ABC News reporter Allison Pecorin that the investigation was a “distraction to the hard work of the committee.”
“And I think the security of the country is too important to have a distraction,” he said.
The development came after FBI agents served Burr a search warrant and seized his cell phone on Wednesday night in a dramatic escalation of the Justice Department’s investigation, which began at the end of March.
Unnamed officials told the Los Angeles Times and CNN that given Burr’s status as a high-ranking senator, the only way the FBI could’ve been granted the warrant was if the top brass at the DOJ signed off on it.
The GOP senator, whose committee had regularly received closed door briefings on COVID-19 as the outbreak was beginning to ramp up in January, sold up to $2.6 million worth of stocks in mid-February.
Law enforcement opened a probe into the transactions for potential inside trading, which violates the STOCK Act of 2012 that forbids members of Congress from using nonpublic information to inform their stock transactions.