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FBI serves warrant on Sen. Richard Burr in stock investigation

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 5/14/2020 By Del Quentin Wilber, Los Angeles Times
Richard Burr wearing a suit and tie: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on April 12, 2018. © Cheriss May/Sipa USA/TNS Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on April 12, 2018.

WASHINGTON — Federal agents seized a cellphone belonging to a prominent Republican senator on Wednesday night as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into controversial stock trades he made as the coronavirus first struck the U.S., a law enforcement official said.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on the lawmaker at his residence in the Washington area, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a law enforcement action.

The seizure represents a significant escalation in the investigation into whether Burr violated a law preventing members of Congress from trading on insider information they have gleaned from their official work.

Burr sold a significant percentage of his stock portfolio in 33 different transactions on Feb. 13, just as his committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings and a week before the stock market declined sharply. Much of the stock was invested in businesses that in subsequent weeks were hit hard by the plunging market.

Burr and other senators received briefings from U.S. public health officials before the stock sales.

Spokespeople for the FBI and the Justice Department did not return phone messages seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Burr did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Burr’s selloff — which was publicly disclosed in ranges — amounted to between $628,000 and $1.72 million. The stock trades were first reported by ProPublica.

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(Staff Writer Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.)

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©2020 Los Angeles Times

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