Senator Burr is currently being accused of using insider information to sell his stock in advance of the coronavirus epidemic:

Burr had been receiving daily coronavirus updates from the intelligence community in his role as committee chairman, per a Feb. 27 report by Reuters. After writing a Feb. 7 Fox News op-ed that said the U.S. is "better prepared than ever before" to face public health threats such as COVID-19, he sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million in stocks on Feb. 13, ProPublica reported.

But what non-public information did Burr receive? China being put into lockdown was public information and was discussed by the media around the world. The first American coronavirus patient was diagnosed on January 19th in Washington and this was likewise public information. The virus spreading to Italy and other European countries was in the news in late January as well.

So what exactly did Senator Burr do wrong? What information could he have possibly obtained that wasn't in the news by early-mid February?

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    @JustMe Except that Feinstein has her assets in a blind trust, and Inhofe and Loeffler claim that the decisions were made by an adviser.
    – tim
    Commented Mar 25, 2020 at 21:00
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    Closers: this Q. is asking about information that was not public at the time Sen. Burr first heard of it. Much or all of which has since gone public. It's not about internal motivations or hypothetical information.
    – agc
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 16:40
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    @RodrigodeAzevedo I sure hope they bought back in because otherwise they've missed out on a lot of gains... Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 0:10

3 Answers 3


The information that US intelligence services warned about a likely pandemic.

It's one thing to know that there was one case in Washington or a lockdown in China, but another to know if an informed source such as US intelligence services consider it a threat.

This Politico article goes into a bit more depths about this and the difficulty in actually prosecuting cases like this.

Regarding what he did "wrong", there's also the issue of him not speaking out about Trumps misleading statements downplaying the crisis when he seemingly knew better.

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    First sentence: please specify when that warning occurred.
    – agc
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 16:33

The reason for the public outrage at Senator Burr and Loeffler's actions is that they continued to publicly support the party line that everything was under control and that Coronavirus was not a serious issue, while telling a very different story in private:

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.

On Feb. 27, when the United States had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Trump was tamping down fears and suggesting that the virus could be seasonal. ...

On that same day, Burr attended a luncheon held at a social club called the Capitol Hill Club. And he delivered a much more alarming message.

"There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

But in his public comments about the threat of COVID-19, Burr never offered the kind of precise warning that he delivered to the small group of his constituents. ...

Weeks Before Virus Panic, Intelligence Chairman Privately Raised Alarm, Sold Stocks

While we don't know exactly what non-public information he got in that intelligence meeting, we do know that in the luncheon described above he warned his donors that bans on travel to Europe, long-term school closures, and military intervention were all likely to occur:

"There will be, I'm sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, 'Let's close schools for two weeks. Everybody stay home,' " he said. ...

"We're going to send a military hospital there; it's going to be in tents and going to be set up on the ground somewhere," Burr said at the luncheon

Weeks Before Virus Panic, Intelligence Chairman Privately Raised Alarm, Sold Stocks

At the same time, the President and his allies such as Senator Burr, were working hard to convince the public of the opposite. On that same day, President Trump said:

"It's going to disappear. One day, it's like a miracle. It will disappear,

While there was certainly plenty of evidence that COVID-19 was already a global pandemic, the President and his allies such as Senator Burr, were working hard to convince the public of the opposite. Had Burr shared what he knew was coming with the public, not just high-paying donors, the country could have taken quicker action to slow the spread of the disease or prepare a response. Instead, he chose to keep quiet and profit.

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    He probably wasn't suppose to alert the public though, they often need to buy time to make background preparations and avoid panic. That said, those background preps should not include personal stock dumping...
    – dandavis
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 20:59

According to the Justice Department, apparently no such non-public information has been made available to the Senator or at least not enough was revealed to warrant a criminal prosecution:

Sen. Richard Burr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has told him it will not prosecute him over stock sales made during the coronavirus pandemic, ending an insider trading investigation that led him to at least temporarily step aside from a powerful committee chairmanship last year.

Prosecutors had investigated for months whether the North Carolina Republican and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee had exploited advance information when he unloaded as much as $1.7 million in stocks in the days before the coronavirus caused markets to plummet.

“The case is now closed,” Burr said in a statement. “I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.”

There were other insider trading allegations against Sen. Burr that are not related to the pandemic and he was cleared of these charges as well.

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