Justice Department Drops Probes Of 3 Senators Who Sold Stock After Coronavirus Briefings
The Justice Department is dropping investigations into three senators who made large stock trades as cases of the coronavirus first began appearing in the U.S., according to multiple reports.
Officials informed attorneys for Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday that they would not pursue the investigations after financial disclosure reports revealed that the lawmakers or their spouses had sold hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in stock. The sales, first reported in March, came shortly after Congress began receiving regular briefings on the coronavirus and potentially saved lawmakers from substantial financial losses as the stock market began an ongoing period of upheaval.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is reportedly still under investigation for his own stock trades after ProPublica first reported he had sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million worth of holdings. Federal investigators seized one of his cellphones earlier this month as part of that probe. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The DOJ’s disclosure is welcome news for the other lawmakers, who were roundly criticized for the sales as the coronavirus spread across the nation. More than 1.6 million Americans have been infected with the virus and nearly 100,000 have died. The pandemic has also caused widespread financial havoc, leading to more than 38 million joblessness claims.
“Today’s clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along — she did nothing wrong,” an aide to the Georgia Republican said Tuesday. “This was a politically motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents.”
Loeffler, whose husband is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, had previously announced the pair would divest from all individual holdings.
Inhofe told The Oklahoman he was “pleased” investigators had exonerated him, affirming he did “nothing wrong.” He added: “As I’ve said all along, I wasn’t even at the briefing and do not make my own stock trades.”
Feinstein did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for comment, although she had previously rejected claims of impropriety and said her holdings were in a blind trust.
Burr has temporarily stepped down as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that investigators may have obtained evidence the senator could have used information that wasn’t public to make his financial decisions. He has broad leeway and constitutional protections as a member of Congress, however, which could prevent investigators from questioning him.
The New York Times notes that, although lawmakers can hold and trade stocks while in office, federal law bars them from making financial decisions based on private information gleaned in their official duties.
The Times reported that the Senate Ethics Committee may also be investigating the trades.
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