Many Americans are outraged after reports published on Thursday revealed that two Republican lawmakers dumped millions of dollars in stock after attending a senators-only briefing about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in January.
Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his stock holdings in 33 different transactions in February, ProPublica reported Thursday. The outlet pointed out that because of Burr’s position, he would have access to classified information about “threats to America’s security” — including the growing threat of COVID-19.
The stock market fell significantly about a week after Burr’s sales.
Burr’s actions have many calling for the North Carolina senator’s resignation, prompting the hashtag #BurrMustResign to trend on Twitter.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson told his audience Thursday night that Burr betrayed his country by withholding information about the severity of COVID-19.
“He had inside information about what could happen to our country, which is now happening, but he didn’t warn the public,” Carlson said. “He didn’t give a primetime address. He didn’t go on television to sound the alarm.”
“There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis,” the Fox News anchor added. “And that appears to be what happened.”
“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” a spokesperson for Burr told ProPublica. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”
Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler has also come under fire. According to a new report from The Daily Beast, she sold millions of dollars worth of stock after attending a January briefing about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the report.
The outlet reported that Loeffler and her husband made the first sale on January 24, selling between $50,001 and $100,000 of stock in Resideo Technologies.
That same day, the Senate Health Committee held a briefing on COVID-19 that included top health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health of the United States.
The Daily Beast reported that Loeffler and her husband made 28 more stock transactions; all but two of those transactions were sales, according to the outlet.
As The Daily Beast pointed out, it is against the law for senators to use non-public information to make trades.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for both Burr’s and Loeffler’s resignation.
“As Intel chairman, @SenatorBurr got private briefings about Coronavirus weeks ago,” the New York representative tweeted. “Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors, while assuring the public that we were fine. THEN he sold off $1.6 million in stock before the fall. He needs to resign.”
“It is stomach-churning that the first thoughts these Senators had to a dire & classified #COVID briefing was how to profit off this crisis,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday night. “They didn’t mobilize to help families, or prep response. They dumped stock. Sen. Loeffler needs to resign, too.”
Burr and Loeffler did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Concern about COVID-19 has escalated around the world in the last week, with several cities around the U.S. enacting “shelter in place” ordinances in an attempt to slow the spread of the respiratory virus.
As of Thursday, there are at least 10,201 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 149 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
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