Burr steps down as US Senate intel chair after FBI seizes cellphone


United States Senator Richard Burr stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after his cell phone was seized by federal brokers as a part of the US Department of Justice’s probe into inventory transactions made by the politician earlier than the sharp market downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this yr, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mentioned on Thursday. 

US media mentioned late on Wednesday that the FBI took Burr’s cellphone as a part of a wider investigation. Burr reportedly bought roughly $1.7m in shares shortly earlier than the financial downturn from the coronavirus pandemic started. 

“Senator 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,” McConnell mentioned in a press release.

“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”

Burr, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing and mentioned he relied solely on information stories to information choices on inventory gross sales amid stories that he and different senators bought shares after being briefed on the dangers of the coronavirus disaster.

The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman turned over his cellphone to brokers after they served a search warrant on him at his Washington, DC home, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an unnamed legislation enforcement official. 

A separate legislation enforcement official informed the LA Times that the FBI additionally served a warrant not too long ago to iPhone maker Apple Inc to get data from Burr‘s iCloud account.

Law enforcement brokers used knowledge acquired from the corporate as a part of the proof used to acquire the warrant for the senator’s cellphone, the report added.

The Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, declined to touch upon the report. Apple didn’t reply to a request for remark.

CNN reported in March that the Justice Department had began to research a collection of inventory transactions made by Burr earlier than the market downturn triggered by the virus outbreak. The probe was finished in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Burr has expertise in responding to public well being crises and is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which receives briefings about threats to the US. 

The senator additionally got here below hearth in March after a recording surfaced whereby he said the hazard posed by the coronavirus was akin to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. 

“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” Burr mentioned within the February 27 recording. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and information businesses