U.S. Senator Richard Burr is stepping aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee during an investigation of stock trades he made before the sharp market downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican Senator Richard Burr will temporarily step down from his role as chairman of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee amid an FBI probe into possible insider trading.
The announcement comes a day after the Los Angeles Times reported that FBI agents served a warrant for Burr's cellphone.
The paper cited an unnamed government official who stated Burr is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a probe into stock transactions made ahead of a sharp selloff trigged by fears over the coronavirus in March.
A spokesperson for Burr declined to comment to the Times.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the report.
CBS News reported Burr and his wife sold between $600,000 and $1.7 million in stocks from late January through mid-February.
They sold shares in companies that own hotels, a sector hammered by the outbreak.
Before he sold the stocks, Burr and other senators had received periodic briefings from U.S. health officials about the coronavirus.
The timing of the sales raised questions about whether Burr knew more about the potential risks of the crisis than he told the public.
In early February, Burr co-authored an opinion piece meant to reassure Americans the nation was prepared to confront the virus.
A week later, public disclosures show he sold more stock in a single day than he had in 14 months.
And two weeks after that, audio obtained by National Public Radio captured Burr sharing dire warnings about the coronavirus at an invitation-only event.
Burr has denied any wrongdoing and said he relied solely on news reports to guide decisions on stock sales.
In a statement on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Burr had informed him of his decision to step down as head of the intel committee, effective at the end of the week, for the duration of the investigation.