John wrote about this last night so read his post as essential background if you’re late to this story. Political junkies have been poring over the financial disclosures of other senators since Burr’s transactions became known last night to see who else might have cashed in on intelligence briefings about the threat from the epidemic. Some seemingly suspicious transactions may be innocent: For instance, Ron Johnson offloaded a bunch of stock a few weeks ago, but that appears to have been a private sale related to a family business. The deal had been in the works since 2018, Johnson told reporters today. That seems like a false positive.
Still, Burr’s not the only senator who has explaining to do today.
More on that in a second. First, watch Tucker insist that Burr must go — assuming that he really did sell his stock because he knew a crash was coming, of course.
Tucker Carlson calls for Senator Burr to resign and await prosecution for insider trading if he cannot provide a reasonable explanation for his actions. He goes on to say it appears that Senator Burr betrayed his country in a time of crisis pic.twitter.com/q7yJa5wjuA
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) March 20, 2020
Burr’s under suspicion because he sold an unusually large portion of his stock holdings just a few weeks ago, after the Senate had begun receiving ominous briefings about COVID-19. As I write this, he’s issued a statement asserting that he’s done nothing wrong and welcoming an ethics committee review of his sales:
My statement in response to reports about recent financial disclosures: pic.twitter.com/J4kye5a4ok
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) March 20, 2020
How could the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who’s receiving intel on coronavirus, rely “solely” on public reports about the virus? There was a full Senate briefing on the subject by government officials as far back as January 24.
Anyway, as I say, he’s not the only senator on the hot seat. Last night the Daily Beast noticed that the newest member of the Senate, Kelly Loeffler, had also unloaded a bunch of stock recently. Loeffler’s fabulously wealthy (and married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange) so her sales don’t represent a meaningful share of her net worth. But the timing is suspicious: Her first sale was initiated on January 24, the very day of the Senate briefing. And that was the first stock sale Loeffler had initiated since joining the Senate months before.
She purchased some stocks that day too. Guess which.
That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall has shed approximately 10,000 points, dropping about a third of its value.
It was the first of 29 stock transactions that Loeffler and her husband made through mid-February, all but two of which were sales. One of Loeffler’s two purchases was stock worth between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and which has seen a small bump in its stock price since Loeffler bought in as a result of coronavirus-induced market turmoil.
Teleworking software is a goooood stock to own right now. But are critics presuming too much about Loeffler’s culpability? Per the Daily Beast, she also bought shares of Oracle during this period, which hasn’t fared well during the market downturn. And Loeffler herself claims that other people are managing her assets for her:
As confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, I was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020 — three weeks after they were made.
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 20, 2020
I assume the Senate Ethics Committee will check up on that. Is Loeffler quietly passing along information she’s learned in the Senate to her financial advisors? How blind is this de facto blind trust?
Doug Collins, who’s challenging her from the right in Georgia’s upcoming jungle primary (and who was Trump’s preferred choice for the vacant Senate seat that ultimately went to Loeffler), isn’t waiting around for the results of the investigation:
People are losing their jobs, their businesses, their retirements, and even their lives and Kelly Loeffler is profiting off their pain? I'm sickened just thinking about it.
— Doug Collins (@CollinsforGA) March 20, 2020
Burr has said previously that he won’t run for another term, so if he wants to finish out his tenure with voters of all stripes cursing his name, he’s free to do that. Loeffler, however, might see her nascent political career end over this. David French framed the problem here exactly right. If it’s true that they traded on what they knew about COVID-19, the profiteering is the least offensive part of it. The most offensive part is profiteering amid their own catastrophic failure as members of the federal government to adequately prepare the country for this or even to sufficiently warn the rest of us of how severe it might be:
The potential insider trading is dreadful and possibly criminal, but what could elevate this to a historic scandal is the idea that senators may have known enough to be alarmed for themselves yet still projected rosy scenarios to the public AND failed to make sure we were ready. https://t.co/PeMktkEPFA
— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 20, 2020
Here’s Loeffler 10 days ago sounding very chill indeed about what was inbound:
Concerned about #coronavirus? Remember this:
The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe.
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 10, 2020
Lots of Republicans stuck to happy talk about the crisis until very recently, most famously Trump himself. That’s the missing ingredient in Tucker’s spiel: He’s right to be angry at Burr, he’s right that cashing in on a deadly plague is abhorrent, but he overlooks the fact that Burr would have been lambasted by members of his own party and Carlson’s own network if he had spent February shouting from the mountaintops that a disease was about to bring America to its knees. Burr would have been blamed by Trump and MAGA fans for tanking the market and for trying to deliberately damage the president — a charge he’s faced before for not using his power as intel chairman to undermine the Mueller probe and, more recently, to object to John Ratcliffe’s nomination as DNI. Why is Richard Burr participating in this new media hoax to hype a minor health threat? Why can’t he be loyal?
Fear of irritating TrumpWorld is no excuse for Burr, Loeffler, or any other Republican for having bitten their lips if they had reason to know how bad this would be. Their duty to the public supersedes their duty to the president or to their party. If they couldn’t man up, they should be tossed from office for it. But if we’re going to point fingers about unconscionable silence, let’s make sure we take note of all of the different pressures that contributed to that silence.
I’m all for having every major official in the U.S. government and their close relatives submit their financial records to an auditor for evidence of suspicious transactions since the first inklings of a crisis in January. There’s no reason to think Republicans alone are suspect; let’s see those Democratic cards too. But if members of Congress are showing their cards, the president, his advisors, and their relatives should also disclose. Let’s see who the plague profiteers are and vote their asses out.