2644006_web1_ap20126654056214(Charlotte Observer)  U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said Thursday he is temporarily stepping down from his post as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid an ongoing federal probe of stock sales he made shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.  “It’s a distraction to a committee that’s extremely important to the safety and security of the American people and a distraction to the members of that committee being asked questions about me, so I tried to eliminate that,” Burr told McClatchy on Thursday outside the Senate.

The announcement about the North Carolina Republican came the day after the FBI seized Burr’s cell phone in an investigation of the sales earlier this year. Asked about what happened with the FBI on Wednesday night, Burr did not give specifics. Burr, a member of the Senate’s health committee, sold up to $1.7 million in stocks in early and mid-February, according to a Senate disclosure that he filed. It came after he had received briefings about the status of the coronavirus, which had not yet made a large impact in the United States.

On Feb. 7, Burr co-wrote a column reassuring Americans that the the country was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats.” Later that month, he warned attendees at a private luncheon that the dangerous virus was “akin to the 1918 pandemic,” according to a recording first reported by NPR. Soon thereafter, ProPublica and the Center for Responsive Politics disclosed the stock sales.

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Related archives:
(May 2020) Sen. Burr’s brother-in-law dumped stock the same day as Burr. Then the market crashed

(April 2020) Burr sold DC townhome to powerful lobbyist who had congressional business before him

(Sept 2016) NC senator who champions fossil fuels happened to get industry money for 20 years

(July 2016) US Sen. Richard Burr says 2016 will be his last run for elected office