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Elizabeth Warren calls for investigation into whether Trump Mar-a-Lago guests traded on advance knowledge of Soleimani killing

CNBC logo CNBC 1/14/2020 Tucker Higgins

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Kings theatre on January 7, 2020, in New York. © Provided by CNBC 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Kings theatre on January 7, 2020, in New York.

Presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent a letter to two financial regulators this week demanding a federal investigation into whether President Donald Trump provided advance notice of the Jan. 3 strike against Iranian General Qasem Soleimani to stock traders who may have profited illegally based on the tip.

The letter, dated Monday and sent to the chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, follows a Jan. 4 report in The Daily Beast, citing three unnamed sources, which said that Trump had told guests of his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago in the days before the strike to expect a "big" response to Iran that would happen "soon."

"If this report is true, it raises a number of troubling national security questions regarding President Trump's handling of classified and other sensitive national security information," Warren wrote in the letter, which was also signed by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that oversees securities and investments.

The senators wrote that the president's resort guests may have obtained "confidential market-moving information and had the opportunity to trade defense industry stocks or commodities or make other trades based on this information."

Read more: Defense stocks double the S&P 500′s return six months after Middle East turmoil, history shows

The senators noted that defense stocks rose precipitously between the announcement of the attack and the close of trade on Jan. 3. They cited a 5% rise in Northrop Grumman, a 3.6% rise in Lockheed Martin, and a 1.5% rise in Raytheon.

"We have no way of knowing which individuals received information from President Trump in advance of the attack, what precise information they received and when they received it, or whether they may have made any securities or commodities trades based on that information," the senators wrote.

Federal law bars trading stocks based on material, nonpublic information. The senators asked the two agencies to provide a briefing on the matter by Feb. 13 in addition to conducting an investigation.

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The letter comes as Warren is pursuing the Democratic nomination for president.

The Massachusetts progressive is in third place in national polls after sliding in recent weeks behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Voting in state primaries and caucuses begins early next month.

The seventh Democratic debate is scheduled for Tuesday evening in Des Moines, Iowa. A campaign spokesperson referred CNBC to Warren's Senate office.

Soleimani, 62, led the elite Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was considered the second most powerful official in the country. Iran responded to the U.S. attack with missiles strikes on two Iraqi military bases housing American troops, which did not cause any casualties.

The CFTC and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The SEC declined to comment.

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