US senators defend selling shares before coronavirus crash

Two Republican U.S. senators defended themselves on March 20 against heavy criticism, including calls that they resign, for selling large amounts of stock before the coronavirus-induced market meltdown and after closed-door briefings on the outbreak.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr sold up to $1.7 million worth of stock on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions after offering public assurances the government was ready to battle the virus. His financial filings were first reported by ProPublica.

Senator Kelly Loeffler also sold millions of dollars in shares in the weeks after lawmakers were first briefed on the virus, according to public filings.

Media reports about Burr and Loeffler, who have denied wrongdoing, prompted calls they leave office and other criticism from people as disparate as a progressive Democratic lawmaker and a conservative commentator.

The controversy came as Republican and Democratic senators worked with President Donald Trump's administration to try to hash out a massive bill to boost the U.S. economy as it reels from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

After negotiating all day, they told reporters late on March 20 that they had not yet reached a deal, but would resume their talks on March 21.

Burr had made public comments in line with fellow Republican Trump's early assurances that the country could easily deal with the outbreak. Trump's tone has since become much more serious.

But the senator, whose committee position means he receives regular classified briefings on threats to the United States, told a private Washington luncheon two weeks after the stock sales that the coronavirus was much more aggressive "than anything that we have seen in recent history," according...

Continue reading on: