Senator quitting as intelligence committee chairman as FBI seizes phone

A US politician is stepping down as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee after his mobile phone was seized by FBI agents.

Republican senator Richard Burr is being investigated over his share dealings before the US stock market crashed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are reports that Mr Burr and other senators sold shares after being briefed privately on the risks of the COVID-19 crisis.

The FBI is apparently investigating whether Mr Burr broke any laws over these transactions.

Mr Burr has denied any wrongdoing and said he relied solely on news reports to guide decisions on stock sales.

Richard Burr
Image:Mr Burr was questioned by reporters in Washington on Thursday

He told reporters on Thursday he decided to step aside because he did not want the investigation to distract the intelligence committee from its work.

“I thought this was the best thing to do,” Mr Burr said.

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Since March, the US Justice Department has reportedly been looking into trades Mr Burr made in mid-February.

He apparently sold shares in dozens of companies, including many in sectors hard-hit by the pandemic, such as the hotel, restaurant and shipping industries.

Mr Burr turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on him at his Washington home.

The FBI also served a warrant recently to Apple to get information from Mr Burr’s cloud storage for his iPhone, a law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times.

Law enforcement agents used data from the technology company as part of evidence to get the phone warrant, the report added.

US Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) arrives for the Senate impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 21, 2020. - Sparks flew Tuesday over proposed rules for the Senate trial of President Donald Trump, as Democrats accused Republicans of attempting a "cover-up" of evidence that the US leader abused his powers. The first full day of the historic trial saw the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell submit a resolution on procedures that does not admit evidence from the investigation of the president. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Image:Mr Burr apparently sold shares in companies hard-hit by the pandemic, such as in the hotel, restaurant and shipping industries

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Mr Burr “contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as chairman of the intelligence committee during the pendency of the investigation”.

“We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”

President Trump said he did not know anything about Mr Burr’s decision to quit.

“I know nothing about it… That’s too bad,” he told reporters.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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