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Justice Department closes investigation into Senator Richard Burr over stock sales

The Justice Department announced late Tuesday that it had closed the investigation in Senator Richard Burr without filing charges. Burr was under investigation for selling stocks at the same time he was receiving briefings as Senate Intelligence Committee chair ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burr stepped down as the chair of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee in May. He insisted in March he had only relied on "public news reports" when he sold stock from late January through mid-February, ahead of a stock market slide. A closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee briefing on the coronavirus was held on January 24, although Burr's office would not confirm if he attended. 

Senate financial disclosure records reveal Burr and his wife made at least 30 stock sales in from January 31 to February 13, 2020 ranging from $600,000 to $1.7 million. They also purchased between $16,000 and $65,000 of stock in a pair of trades on February 4. 

The bulk of Burr's stock sales took place on February 13, just before he made a speech predicting extreme measures would have to be taken to check the spread of the virus, including closing schools and cutting company travel, according to audio obtained by National Public Radio. A week earlier, he co-authored an op-ed expressing optimism about the country's ability to respond to the virus, writing that "the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus."  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average reported seven straight days of losses from February 20 when the market opened at 29,296 to February 28 when it closed at 25,409.  

The FBI seized Burr's cellphone in May as part of the investigation. He stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee the next day. 

Earlier investigations into stock sales around the same time from Senators Jim Inhofe and Dianne Feinstein and former Senator Kelly Loeffler ended in May. 

Burr, a Republican who represents North Carolina, is up for reelection in 2022. 

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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