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Burr Steps Down as Senate Intelligence-Panel Chair Amid Stock-Sale Probe

Sen. Richard Burr steps down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while  certain of his stock trades are investigated.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday amid an investigation for stock trades he made prior to the economic downturn caused by the the coronavirus pandemic.

Burr acted after the FBI served the senator with a search warrant and seized his cellphone. 

“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said in a statement. 

"We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”

Members of Congress are prohibited from using nonpublic information they obtain through their official positions to profit off the stock market.

Records indicate that Burr and his wife sold roughly $600,000 to $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions earlier this year, just before the market collapsed. 

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Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels, which were hard hit by travel restrictions and social-distancing requirements.

Burr's brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, also sold a large amount of shares on the same day in February, according to a report from ProPublica. 

Fauth was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 to a seat on the three-member National Mediation Board.

Alice Fisher, Burr’s attorney, told ProPublica that the senator “participated in the stock market based on public information,” and that “he did not coordinate his decision to trade on Feb. 13 with Mr. Fauth.”

In February, Burr attended a luncheon where he was secretly recorded warning constituents of the coronavirus.

"It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he said. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

Federal agents earlier served a warrant on Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report for information about Burr’s iCloud account and used that information as evidence to obtain a search warrant from a judge for Burr’s phone, the Los Angeles Times reported.