If You're A GOP Senator Who DIDN'T Do Insider Trading After Coronavirus Briefing, Could You Raise Your Hand?

A big story was rumbling around all day yesterday, about how GOP Senator Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had been caught on tape telling fancy bigwig North Carolina constituents on February 27 that actually coronavirus was gonna be real fuckin' bad, and y'all just get ready. At that time, as NPR (which broke the story) notes, Donald Trump was out there saying it was FINE, everything's FINE, coronavirus is going to disappear like a great big miracle. Meanwhile, Fox News was saying it was a DEEP STATE DUMBOCRATIC HOAX, and encouraging its viewers to lick proverbial door handles.

But over there at the Capitol Hill Club at a luncheon for the Tar Heel Circle group of North Carolina movers and shakers, Burr said:

"There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

True fact, senator!

Are you ready for the part where Burr dumped all his stock in industries likely to be affected by the pandemic, while telling Americans something totally different? NOT YET, YOU WAIT!

Burr even had some pretty precise details to share with the Tar Heel Circle, about what it was going to be like:

"Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel. You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they're making to Europe is essential or whether it can be done on video conference. Why risk it?" Burr said. [...]

"There will be, I'm sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, 'Let's close schools for two weeks. Everybody stay home,' " he said. [...]

"We're going to send a military hospital there; it's going to be in tents and going to be set up on the ground somewhere," Burr said at the luncheon. "It's going to be a decision the president and DOD make. And we're going to have medical professionals supplemented by local staff to treat the people that need treatment."

Golly, that is a lot of predictions for Richard Burr to be making. It's almost like he got a briefing or something. Or was getting daily briefings. Or maybe he is just psychic.

Sylvia Browne didn't die, everyone, she's the senior senator from North Carolina, and the Tar Heel Circle luncheon on February 27 is her Montel Williams show!

Are you ready for the part where Burr dumped all his stock in industries likely to be affected by the pandemic, while telling Americans something totally different? NOT YET, YOU WAIT!

NPR notes that Burr, again, is the chair of the Intel Committee, and also had a hand in writing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). Therefore, it stands to reason he would know stuff.

Burr says there is nothing to see here with this story, and held forth with a long bullshit Twitter thread last evening about NPR's fake news hitpiece. It's linked here, below yr Wonkette responding to Burr, "You forgot to talk about why you dumped all your stock."

OH YES, THE STOCK! We said we'd discuss that part very soon, because while the story of Burr giving early warnings to well-connected constituents while he and the Trump government were saying something completely different in public is pretty big, it got so much worse.

BURRRRRRRRRR, It's Cold In Here! There Must Be Some CRIME In The Atmosphere! (Allegedly!)

On February 7, Burr and Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander wrote a Fox News op-ed reassuring Americans everything would be FINE, because the government has got this. They didn't say coronavirus wasn't bad, but just said we were Ready Steady Freddy for it, ain't no coronavirus gonna get us down, USA! USA! USA!

But ProPublica reported last night that Burr, just six days later on February 13, which is two weeks before he told the Tar Heel Circle how bad it would be, took a series of dumps. Stock dumps. Between $628,000 and $1.72 million in stock dumps, in 33 transactions. (Senators' transactions are reported in ranges.)

And what did Burr sell?

He dumped up to $150,000 worth of shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, a chain based in the United States that has lost two-thirds of its value. And he sold up to $100,000 of shares of Extended Stay America, an economy hospitality chain.

Oh, just stuff that might get fucked in an economic downturn where people have to stay at home and stop traveling and in a space of two weeks sacrifice all the trappings of a joyful, connected life. That kinda stuff. Fucker.

(By the way, this does not appear to be the first time Burr has run to the ATM after hearing harsh government warnings about a financial crisis, or had his wife run to it, while publicly saying everything was fiiiiiiiiine.)

ProPublica notes that as members of Congress go, Burr is not very rich, and was only worth about $1.7 million as of 2018. So this represents at the very least a big chunk of his nest egg.

Burr spokesperson Caitlin Carroll gave NPR a statement about Burr's stock sell-off, and it was "LOL." No, really. But then she said her "LOL" was about the fake news story about Burr telling the hoity-toity luncheon how bad things would be, and not about the stock trades. This is part of her actual statement on that:

"Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak," Carroll said.

Yes, well, when people do insider trading, they do tend to do it "before the U.S. and financial markets [show] signs of volatility." It is kind of the point of the crime. (In related news, murderers tend to kill people who are currently alive.)

Burr has a new statement this morning. He was just reading the PUBLIC news to help him make those sales you see! He didn't even have all that other secret information in his brain when he did those transactions, because a very magical wizard put a spell on him to make him forget it while he was doin' stocks!


Want the punchline? It is a kneeslapper so you better get ready to laugh into your arm so you don't give your neighbor coronavirus! In 2012, ProPublica reports, "Burr was one of just three senators who [...] opposed the [Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK Act, which] explicitly barred lawmakers and their staff from using nonpublic information for trades and required regular disclosure of those trades." Because insider trading was already illegal! No point in making it DOUBLE illegal for members of Congress, what are they, public servants or something?

That was a pretty good punchline. No go wash the viral spit off your sleeve, because there's more.

Here A Pandemic Profiteering Criminal, There A Pandemic Profiteering Criminal, Everywhere A ... OK Not Everywhere, They're All Republicans LOL

All this Richard Burr Dumping Stocks news just sent reporters into a TIZZY last night, checking financial disclosures to see who else might have dumped bunches of stocks when they found out how bad coronavirus was going to be, but before the public knew.

The first thing they found was newly installed Georgia GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler — who is worth MULTI KABILLIONS, along with her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange — just taking big dumps everywhere, just like Richard Burr did.

Remember what we were saying about daily briefings? Well, the Daily Beast reports that on January 24, there was an all-senators briefing with Dr. Anthony Fauci given by the Senate Health Committee, on which Loeffler sits.

That was the day Loeffler and her hus-bear started selling stock, between $1.2 and $3.1 million worth. There were 29 transactions in all, and 27 of them were sales. One of the things she bought was stock in Citrix, which the Daily Beast tells us is "a technology company that offers teleworking software." Huh, wonder why, oh well, guess it'll just be a mystery forever and ever.

Not all of Loeffler's sales look as bald-faced "I AM SELLING TRAVEL STOCKS" as Burr's do. They just look more "I am getting rid of shit because I don't want to lose money when coronavirus kills all the plebeians, even though my husband the NYSE chair and I are worth GABILLIONS and it ain't matter to us." She sold some Exxon, she sold some Comcast, she sold some Ross Dress For Less, she sold some AutoZone, and others.

Kelly Loeffler is horrified that you would even IMPLY!

Funny how she mentions that her husband DEFINITELY FOR REALLY didn't know either, NO HE NEVER.

However, if that is true, then she could be in the clear, and it could be all just a big rotten-looking coincidence. Just like if Richard Burr really has a special wizard who deletes secret congressional briefings from his brain before he signs into E-Trade, then maybe he is innocent. (Renato Mariotti has a very good thread on whether Burr may have truly committed insider trading, and the government's high bar for proving that.)

Of course, if Loeffler is lying — perish the thought! — then it's possible she was colluding with her husband the chair of the NYSE to use secret Senate briefing info to make $$ off the upcoming coronavirus devastation.

So no big.

Remember, the reason we are in the situation we are in, following Italy's trajectory with the coronavirus (which is horrifying, and so much worse is yet to come), is because the Trump administration sat on its thumbs and fucked around for actual months before trying to do anything about the pandemic, and this is a situation where even days mattered.

But hey, at least some very rich GOP senators had time to follow the recommendations of the famous lifestyle money book The 7 Habits Of Highly Successful Pandemic ExploitersWho Are Definitely Eventually Going To Hell.

You know, allegedly.

Anybody Else?

Like we said, reporters got themselves in a TIZZY, nay, a LATHER over this last night. (They are bored at home on the computer just like you!)

Here is Oklahoma GOP Senator Jim Inhofe selling just a bunch of shit, right after that all-Senate briefing from Loeffler's committee:

Inhofe told the New York Times he ain't know what you're talkin' about, as he is not involved in these day-to-day decisions, but he'll probably show you his snowballs, should you like to see them.

Here's David Perdue — the other GOP senator from Georgia — makin' some sales (Caesar's, the casino not the pizza company, HUH!) and makin' some buys (Pfizer, HUH!), but of course these were at the end of February, when the market had already started going loopy (click on tweet to embiggen):

Of course, at that point, the Trump administration and its state media organ Fox were still saying everything was fiiiiiine with coronavirus, so maybe CALL YOUR LAWYER, DAVID PERDUE.

Senate's Dumbest Republican Ron Johnson also made a very big dump, but careful reporters are noting that his big dump was different from the other big dumps, and doesn't look bad like these others, as it was his stake in a family-held company and blah blah, you don't care, just don't worry about that one.

Nah, this is a story about Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler. At least primarily. And also Inhofe and Perdue, to a lesser extent.

So far.

But Wait, Fox News Said This Story Is About Dianne Feinstein!

Yes, darling, Fox News lies and misleads its viewers and readers.

Feinstein did have a funky humongous sale during the time in question, after the briefing, selling off between $1.5 and $6 million in a biotech company, Allogene Therapeutics. Her spokesperson says all her money is in a blind trust, and she doesn't pay any attention to what her husband does with their money.

If we find out she's lying, we'll kick her ass just like anybody else, but sounds like this story isn't really about Dianne Feinstein.

Sorry, Fox News.

STFU Tucker Carlson

Oh, this news, especially the Richard Burr news, made Fox News "White Power Hour" host Tucker Carlson HAUGHTY AND TUT-TUT AND HOW DARE YOU! Forsooth, how could a senator do something so underhanded!

Tucker ain't give a shit, don't buy it.

Burr was quitting at the end of his term anyway, and according to NC law, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has to appoint a Republican to replace a Republican, so they can steamroll Burr all day long and it costs them nothing.

Also Burr's name is on all those Senate Intelligence Committee reports that say Russia did it and Trump liked it, so we can think of at least one more reason why Fox News might not be hesitant to sacrifice Burr.



The end.

[NPR / ProPublica / Daily Beast]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the managing editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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