Justice Dept. drops insider trading investigation into GOP Sen. Richard Burr

The Department of Justice has dropped its investigation of North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr over allegations of insider trading, which was launched after it was discovered early on in the pandemic that he had sold off "significant" stock holdings ahead of the market taking a reactive dive.

What are the details?

The New York Times first reported Tuesday that that DOJ had dropped the case, noting:

The decision by the department and the Securities and Exchange Commission effectively cleared a cloud of legal jeopardy that has loomed over Mr. Burr since the sales were first disclosed in March. At the crux of the case was whether Mr. Burr, then the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had acted based on nonpublic information about the contagion that he received at senators-only briefings.

Sen. Burr issued a statement to Axios in reaction to the news, saying, "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."

The outlet reported that the DOJ "has now closed all four of its Senate insider trading probes it launched early on in the pandemic," pointing out that Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) were also investigated for the same reasons but no charges were brought against any of the lawmakers.

What's the background?

Burr came under fire in March after public financial disclosures revealed that the North Carolina senator sold off as much as $1.72 million in dozens of transactions on Feb. 13, after receiving briefings on the threat of the coronavirus that was spreading from China and prompting lockdowns in several other countries. ProPublic reported at the time that "a week after Burr's sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since."

The revelations drew fury across the political spectrum, including from high-profile conservatives calling for Burr to resign. Among those who criticized Burr publicly were Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Calif.), who said at the time that Burr "should be immediately dismissed from the Senate Intel Committee while he is under investigation."

Burr eventually stepped down as the head of the intel committee, Axios reported.

In May, the FBI served a warrant against Burr, seizing his cellphone as part of the investigation into the allegations.

Burr, 65, has maintained his innocence throughout. Before the allegations, Burr had already announced he would be retiring and would not seek re-election for his term that ends in 2023.

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