Justice Dept. won't charge Sen. Burr over stock sales

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., speaks during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., speaks during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – 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.”

His lawyer, Alice Fisher, described the investigation as a “thorough review” and said Burr, who has said he will not seek reelection when his term ends in 2022, would remain focused on “the safety and security of North Carolinians and the United States as a whole.”

A Justice Department spokesman confirmed it would not bring charges but declined further comment. The New York Times was first to report on the decision to not bring charges.

The investigation escalated in May when the FBI obtained a search warrant to seize a cellphone from Burr. The day after that action became public, Burr said he would step aside as Intelligence Committee chairman while the FBI investigation was ongoing. It is unclear whether he will retake the role as the panel’s top Republican now that he has been cleared.

Democrats are set to take control of the Senate on Wednesday, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner will become the panel’s chairman.

Burr said he was told Tuesday, the last night of President Donald Trump’s term. He had occasionally angered Trump and his family as he investigated the president’s ties to Russia, especially when he called Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. in to testify before the committee for a second time in 2019.