February 13th was a relatively quiet day on Wall Street. It’s not going to be noted in any economics textbooks a hundred years from now. The Dow dropped about a hundred points. But just the day before, the Dow had reached an all-time high, so the loss didn’t seem like a big deal. Overall, it was a calm, steady week in the markets.
But for one investor in Washington, February 13th was packed with drama. Richard Burr is a Republican senator from North Carolina. Burr has no background in finance or investing. In fact, before being elected to Congress in 1994, Burr spent 17 years selling lawn mowers for a dealer in Winston-Salem.
But on February 13th of this year, Burr seemed to develop very strong feelings about the future of American equity markets. That day, he dumped up to $1.7 million in stocks in 33 separate transactions. Burr bought nothing that day. It was a flurry of selling — sell, sell, sell — essentially, it was a cashout. In fact, it was.
Two years ago, Roll Call, the news outlet that covers Congress, estimated that Burr had a total net worth of about $1.7 million. In other words, that day in February, Richard Burr suddenly decided to sell virtually everything he owned.
Many people on Wall Street probably envy him now. Pretty savvy move. So what did Richard Burr, the former lawnmower salesman, know that the financial experts did not know? Well, a lot it turns out.
Richard Burr is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. On January 24th, he attended a closed-door briefing on the Chinese coronavirus. It was delivered by Dr. Anthony Fauci and the head of the CDC.
Apparently, what Burr heard there spooked him. Within a short time, he acted decisively to save his family from financial harm. Unfortunately, He didn’t tell the rest of us about it. In fact, he did just the opposite.
Burr hid what he knew about the coronavirus threat and then lied about it at length to the nation.
In a February 7th op-ed published on our website here at Fox, Burr wrote this, “The United States is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats like the coronavirus.”
“Better prepared than ever”? Burr knew that was a lie when he wrote it. Six days later, he dumped his entire portfolio.
By March 5th, a month later, coronavirus had become a full-blown crisis in Italy. Yet, Richard Burr was still falsely insisting that everything was fine.
He issued a statement assuring America that, “We have a framework in place that has put us in a better position than any other country to respond to a public health threat like the coronavirus.”
That was Burr’s line in public. In private, he was panicked. On February 27th, before an audience at a closed speech in Washington, Burr compared coronavirus to the Spanish flu, a pandemic that killed close to a hundred million people. Here’s what he said:
There’s one thing that I can tell you about this. It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history. It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.
For a public servant, it’s pretty hard to imagine many things more immoral than doing this. Richard Burr had critical information that might have helped the people he is sworn to protect. But he hid that information and helped only himself.
Instead of sounding the alarm, alerting the country, goading the government into action as an ethical person would have done, Burr told easy lies that in the end may have killed people. And he wasn’t alone in doing that.
Dianne Feinstein is a Democrat from California. She also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In late January and early February of this year, Feinstein dumped up to $6 million worth of stock. When confronted with this fact on Friday, Feinstein dodged. She took the strikingly un-feminist position that selling the stock was her husband’s decision to make and somehow she was not allowed to ask about it. — All of those confusing numbers. It’s too much for a girl. Please.
At times this winter, Feinstein to her credit did issue press releases calling attention to the seriousness of coronavirus and again good for her. But all of her major public statements were political.
On February 4th, when every informed person in the U.S. government understood that the coronavirus was a very serious threat to the world, Feinstein spent her time giving a long speech on the Senate floor calling for Donald Trump’s conviction in the impeachment trial.
And then there’s Kelly Loeffler, a new Republican senator from Georgia. Financial disclosure forms show that Loeffler sold up to $3.1 million in stock over three weeks after being privately briefed in the Senate on coronavirus. Loeffler’s disclosure shows a total of 29 equities transactions, 27 of them were sales.
Some of the holdings she shed were in energy, automotive, retail and airlines. One of her two purchases was a company called Citrix, which makes teleworking software — that’s a product suddenly in high demand.
So that story broke on Thursday night. All of these did.
Unlike Richard Burr, Senator Loeffler has responded very aggressively and quickly and in some detail. She said that her holdings are managed by outside advisers. She has nothing directly to do with it and pointed to a financial disclosure that she says she received days after the transactions were made showing that they’d gone through. It got to her on February 16th.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on March 20, 2020.