President Donald Trump dodged a question about North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s highly sucpicious stock sell-offs made after receiving briefings on the Wuhan virus before the stock market began to crash.
“Are you concerned about members of Congress that may have have used information they learned on updates to sell stocks and profit off of this?” asked former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who now works for Newsmax.
“I’m not aware of it,” Trump said during Friday’s press briefing. “I saw some names. I know all of them. I know everyone mentioned, Dianne Feinstein, I guess and a couple of others. I don’t know too much of what it’s about, but I find them to all be very honorable people.”
Sean Spicer—Trump's ex-press secretary now employed by NewsMax—asked POTUS at a White House press briefing if he's concerned about members of Congress using internal coronavirus updates to sell stock & profit.
— Anna Massoglia (@annalecta) March 20, 2020
Several senators have been accused of conducting insider trading by selling off stocks just as the market began to crash. At the heart of the scandal is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Burr, who admitted to dumping stock ahead of the panic while being briefed regularly on the virus, though he claimed he used no information provided to him on Capitol Hill in making the transactions. Burr says he used only information provided by CNBC’s reporting on the Wuhan virus to make the trades.
“I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13. Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time,” Burr said in a statement. “Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency.”
On Feb. 13, Burr sold off between $628,00 to $1.7 million in stocks a week before the markets began to tank which have now declined 30 percent since, according to ProPublica which first reported the story.
Other senators who have been accused of making similar transactions include Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
In Johnson’s case however, an investment firm purchased the senator’s family company in a transaction that had been in the works since 2018, two years before the start of the Wuhan virus outbreak anywhere.
On Friday, Trump reiterated that he believed the people named in the scandal were each “honorable people.”
“They said they did nothing wrong,” Trump said. “I find them, the whole group, very honorable people.”
Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway argues that in his role as chief of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr offered credence to the Russian collusion conspiracy theory and took actions to protect those who abused their power to conduct a deep-state coup.
“Burr had already let the country down in that role,” Hemingway wrote “Under his leadership, the Senate Intelligence Committee was worse than useless at overseeing the intelligence community’s handling of the bizarre theory that Donald Trump was involved in an elaborate conspiracy with Russia to steal the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton.”
This article has been updated since posting.