FBI agents have seized U.S. Senator Richard Burr’s cell phone after executing a search warrant on his Washington, D.C. area home.
The North Carolina Republican chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. The news marks a dramatic escalation of the insider trading probe into Burr, who’s faced scrutiny over dozens of stock trades made at the same time both committees he sits on received closed-door briefings on the still-emerging coronavirus pandemic. Burr’s trades occurred one day after a health committee meeting and one week before the market cratered. Many shares he sold were in companies walloped by the crisis. (RELATED: Five Senators Accused of Insider Trading)
Obtaining a search warrant is contingent upon prosecutors successfully persuading a judge there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. The leadership at the Justice Department would have to consent to the feds taking such action against a sitting United States senator.
The Los Angeles Times further reports:
A second law enforcement official said FBI agents served a warrant in recent days on Apple to obtain information from Burr’s iCloud account and said agents used data obtained from the California-based company as part of the evidence used to obtain the warrant for the senator’s phone.
A spokesperson for the FBI did not return phone messages seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Burr declined to comment. Burr has said he does not plan to run for reelection in 2022.
Burr’s sell-off — which was publicly disclosed in ranges — amounted to between $628,000 and $1.72 million. The stock trades were first reported by ProPublica.
Burr isn’t the only senator who’s facing allegations of insider trading. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) have become increasingly scrutinized.
UPDATE: Senator Burr has contacted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and will temporarily step down as chairman of the Intelligence Committee. The Los Angeles Times notes the details of the arrangement.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said the investigation is a “distraction to the hard work of the committee and the members, and I think that the security of the country is too important to have a distraction.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he and Burr agreed that his decision to step aside “would be in the best interests of the committee” and would take effect Friday evening.