Four senators dumped millions of dollars worth of stock while Capitol Hill was being briefed on the threat of coronavirus but before the markets tanked as infections soared, disclosure records have revealed.
According to The Daily Beast, Sen Kelly Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, reportedly sold $3.1million in stock with the first sale in the company Resideo Technologies worth between $50,001 and $100,000 on January 24.
That same day Loeffler’s committee, the Senate Health Committee hosted a private, all-senators briefing with administration officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director and Anthony Fauci.
Meawnhile Richard Burr, Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee which was being briefed on coronavirus, offloaded between $582,029 and $1.56million of his stock holdings, according to The New York Times.
Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat member of the same committee, and her husband also sold between $1.5 million and $6 million in stock in California biotech company.
Elsewhere James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, sold stocks totaling $400,000 on January 27 including shares in PayPal, Apple and Brookfield Asset Management, a real estate company.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act prohibits members of Congress from insider trading based on classified information they have received in briefings.
Sen Kelly Loeffler (pictured) reportedly sold $3.1million in stock with the first sale in the company Resideo Technologies worth between $50,001 and $100,000 on January 24
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, knew of the coming coronavirus crisis three weeks ago and divulged details of the chaos that would ensue to a group of well-heeled constituents
Burr talked to members of the Tar Heel Circle, a group that charges $500 to $10,000 for membership, at the Capitol Hill Club, a private social club for Republicans located steps away from the Capitol Building
At the Capitol Hill Club (pictured), Burr spelled out the anticipated widespread disruptions that would be caused by the coronavirus outbreak, statements he wasn’t making publicly
ProPublica reported that on February 13 Burr sold of stock holdings in 29 separate transactions. A week later the stock market started its downward trend, now losing about a third of its value.
Burr dumped $150,000 worth of shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts stock and $100,000 worth of shares of Extended Stay America.
The hospitality industry has been one of the worst shattered in this collapse.
Then, on February 27 Burr gave well-heeled constituents from the Tar Heel State a dire warning about the kind of chaos the coronavirus could cause.
The North Carolina Republican is heard on a secret recording obtained by NPR telling members of the Tar Heel Circle on February 27 that the coronavirus was ‘much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history.’
‘It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic,’ Burr told the group, who pay between $500 and $10,000 for membership of the group, according to NPR’s reporting.
In a series of tweets, Burr pushed back and said he was addressing the membership of the North Carolina State Society. ‘The message I shared with my constituents is the one public health officials urged all of us to heed as coronavirus spread increased,’ he also said.
The luncheon that was taped was held at the Capitol Hill Club, a social club for Republicans located steps away from the Capitol Building.
Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led the calls for the resignations of both Koeffler and Burr shortly after the news broke on Thursday
There, Burr spelled out some of the broad repurcussions of the brewing outbreak.
‘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 told attendees.
He also previewed school shutdowns.
‘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,’ the Republican lawmaker said.
Burr also said the military would be utilized.
‘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,’ he said. ‘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,’ he added.
Burr was not sounding a similar alarm publicly. And the leader of his party, President Trump, was downplaying the risk the same day.
‘It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear,’ Trump said. ‘It could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.’
Three weeks later, Burr’s assessment was right on the money.
A week ago Wednesday, Trump announced that travelers from Europe who were not Americans or U.S. residents would be banned.
On Thursday, the State Department told Americans to come home from abroad now – and to not count on government help.
Schools, colleges and universities across the country have been closed down. And the military is doing its part to deal with the outbreak.
Later on Twitter, Burr blasted NPR saying the lunch was sponsored by the North Carolina State Society. ‘They aren’t “secretive: or “high-dollar donor” organizations.
‘Unfortunately, NPR’s journalistic malpractice has raised concerns that Americans weren’t warned about the significant steps we may have to take to stop the coronavirus threat. That’s not true,’ Burr said.
He pointed to comments Trump made on February 26, when the president said ‘every aspect of our society should be prepared.’ Though Trump used the caveat that the preparations should be made ‘just in case.’
‘Purposefully misleading listeners for the sake of a “narrative,” like NPR has done, makes us less safe,’ Burr wrote.
On the ProPublica report, a spokesperson for Burr told DailyMail.com, ‘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.’
‘As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy,’ the statement continued. ‘He supported Congress’ immediate efforts to provide $7.8 billion for response efforts and this week’s bipartisan bill to provide relief for American business and small families.’
The statement didn’t push back on the allegations found in the reporting outright.
Pointing to the NPR and ProPublica reports, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – one of the most famous House Democrats – called for Burr’s head.
‘As Intel chairman, @SenatorBurr got private briefings about Coronavirus weeks ago. 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,’ Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday. ‘He needs to resign.’