A senator's well-timed stock selloff before the coronavirus crisis arrived in full is now the subject of a federal investigation. CNN reports that the Justice Department has begun an inquiry into the financial moves of Richard Burr. The North Carolina Republican chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he sold off a large amount of his stock portfolio just before the market's epic downturn. Burr has been taking much criticism over his selloff because he was privy to classified briefings about the how bad the virus might be, and he had reassured the public that all was well. However, Burr insists his selloff on Feb. 13 was based solely on public news reports about the worsening outbreak in China and not because of any inside information he received.
Burr is not the only senator implicated—Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republicans Jim Inhofe and Kelly Loeffler also had big selloffs in their portfolios—but he is the only one the feds have contacted so far, per CNN. Like Burr, the other three senators say their trades were based on public information, and all three maintain they had no direct say in the trades themselves because their portfolios are controlled by others. An example of the heat Burr is taking: Last week, the Charlotte Observer wrote a scathing editorial urging him to resign because he was "toxic" to his own party and "embarrassing" to his home state. "At the moment we needed him most, Richard Burr was thinking mostly about himself," says the editorial. (Read more Richard Burr stories.)