Federal agents seized a cellphone belonging to a prominent Republican senator on Wednesday night as part of the Justice Departments investigation into controversial stock trades he made as the novel coronavirus first struck the U.S., a law enforcement official said.
Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on the lawmaker at his residence in the Washington area, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a law enforcement action.
The seizure represents a significant escalation in the investigation into whether Burr violated a law preventing members of Congress from trading on insider information they have gleaned from their official work.
To obtain a search warrant, federal agents and prosecutors must persuade a judge they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. The law enforcement official said the Justice Department is examining Burr's communications with his broker.
Such a warrant being served on a sitting U.S. senator would require approval from the highest ranks of the Justice Department and is a step that would not be taken lightly. Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.
A second law enforcement official said FBI agents served a warrant in recent days on Apple to obtain information from Burr's iCloud account and said agents used data obtained from the California-based company as part of the evidence used to obtain the warrant for the senators phone.
Burr sold a significant percentage of his stock portfolio in 33 different transactions on Feb. 13, just as his committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings and a week before the stock market declined sharply. Much of the stock was invested in businesses that in subsequent weeks were hit hard by the plunging market.
Burr and other senators received briefings from U.S. public health officials before the stock sales.
A spokesperson for the FBI did not return phone messages seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Burr declined to comment. Burr has said he does not plan to run for reelection in 2022.
Burrs sell-off which was publicly disclosed in ranges amounted to between $628,000 and $1.72 million. The stock trades were first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics and ProPublica.
After the sales became public, Burr said that he would ask the Senate Ethics Committee to review them.
Burr is not the only senator who has come under fire for dumping stock as the virus neared the United States.
In late February and early March, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) sold stocks valued at between $1.25 million and $3.1 million in companies that later dropped significantly, including ExxonMobil. She also bought shares in Citrix, which makes telework software.
Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat to fill a vacancy and faces an election later this year, said after the sales became public that she and her husband would divest all individual stocks.
Burr, a longtime supporter of federal programs responsible for dealing with a pandemic, sits on two Senate committees that got early briefings on the coronavirus the Intelligence Committee and the Senate committee that handles health issues.
The health committee received a briefing on the virus on Feb. 12, one day before his stock trades.
The same day Burr sold his stocks, Burr's brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of six stocks, according to documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics. Fauth serves on the National Mediation Board, which provides mediation for labor disputes in the aviation and rail industries.
Burr has denied coordinating trading with his brother-in-law.
In 2012, Congress prohibited lawmakers from acting on intelligence they learn because of their privileged position, such as briefings with high-level federal officials.
Under the STOCK Act, lawmakers are required to disclose their stock market activity but are still allowed to own stock, even in industries they might oversee.
The law passed the Senate in 2012 in a 96-3 vote. Among the three senators to oppose the bill was Burr.
Times staff writer Sarah D. Wire contributed to this report.
- How to add contacts to your Yahoo Mail account manually in 2 ways - Business Insider - Business Insider - June 20th, 2020
- Donald Trump: Drew Brees will 'regret' apologizing after comments on national anthem protests - Yahoo Sports - June 20th, 2020
- 'Whitewashed and erased': There's a reason Juneteenth isn't taught in schools, educators say - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- The controversial ice cream changing its 'derogatory' name - Yahoo News Australia - June 20th, 2020
- From '100 percent' to 'a disaster': A timeline on how MLB's season has been pushed to the brink - Yahoo Sports - June 20th, 2020
- The Future of Stadiums: How will America's sports venues be transformed by the pandemic? - Yahoo Sports - June 20th, 2020
- 'Into The Wild' bus removed from Alaska wilderness - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- Coronavirus: Fact-checking claims it might have started in August 2019 - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- Tucker Carlson warns that Black Lives Matter is 'more popular than the president' - Yahoo Entertainment - June 20th, 2020
- How a filmmaker's zero-budget horror topped the box office in virus-hit America - Yahoo! Voices - June 20th, 2020
- Meet the Su-25: Russia's Sort-of A-10 Warthog - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- University of Virginia changes logo, removing design linked to school's history with slavery - Yahoo Sports - June 20th, 2020
- Travelers accused of breaking quarantine set to leave Hawaii - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- Uncle Ben's rice: 'Now is the right time' to change - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- Some out-of-work Americans are waiting in line overnight hoping to get their claims processed - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- Trump on coronavirus testing: If we stopped testing right now, wed have very few cases, if any - Yahoo News - June 20th, 2020
- Drew Brees addresses NFL players kneeling in 2020: 'I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag' - Yahoo Sports - June 6th, 2020
- Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck offers thoughts on NBA's 22-team return plan - Yahoo Sports - June 6th, 2020
- Trump says the economy will cure the 'very sad problem' of police killing blacks - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Italy hopes EU nations will open borders to Italians from June 15 - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- May's jobs report surprise masked weaknesses that could make the rebound a 'head fake' - Yahoo Finance - June 6th, 2020
- For the first time, Mexico records more COVID-19 deaths in a day than the U.S. - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- J.C. Penney to Proceed With DIP Financing - Yahoo Finance - June 6th, 2020
- How this week changed America forever - Yahoo Finance - June 6th, 2020
- People have been frightened to go back to hospitals and clinics: UCLA Hospital System CEO - Yahoo Finance - June 6th, 2020
- Enraged New York driver who chased protesters with blades attached to arm is arrested - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- George W. Bush calls on US to examine its 'tragic failures' - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Wall St. pro says the current rally reminds him of March 2009 - Yahoo Finance - June 6th, 2020
- Oils Recovery Is Being Threatened by the Discord Rattling OPEC+ - Yahoo Finance - June 6th, 2020
- Eye of the storm: African Development Bank chief Akinwumi Adesina - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Gregg Popovich unleashes fiery statement on Trump: 'What we have is a fool in place of a president' - Yahoo Sports - June 6th, 2020
- Breaking with party, GOP senator says rebuke of Trump 'necessary' - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Fired watchdog tells Congress he informed top officials about probe into Pompeo and wife - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Detained US Navy veteran freed by Iran as part of deal - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- 'Tiger King' update: Sheriff says will of Carole Baskin's late husband Don Lewis was forged - Yahoo Entertainment - June 6th, 2020
- On sad anniversary, few to mourn the D-Day dead in Normandy - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Wearing Face Masks and Social Distancing Actually Work to Contain COVID-19, According to a New Study - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Denver police ordered to stop using tear gas and plastic bullets in protests - Yahoo News - June 6th, 2020
- Postcards from the edge: Snapshots of European football's return - Yahoo Sports - June 1st, 2020
- FBI's top lawyer, Dana Boente, ousted amid Fox News criticism for role in Flynn investigation - Yahoo News - June 1st, 2020
- Damian Lillard doesnt plan to participate in resumed NBA season if Blazers don't have true opportunity to make playoffs - Yahoo Sports - June 1st, 2020
- Andy Cohen rehomed beloved dog after 'incident' with son: 'A piece of my heart is gone' - Yahoo Entertainment - June 1st, 2020
- Trump's draft executive order targeting social media companies sparks battle inside the White House - Yahoo News - June 1st, 2020
- Dave Matthews speaks out during live-stream about George Floyd and police brutality: 'It is shameful' - Yahoo Entertainment - June 1st, 2020
- Zion Williamson files for protective order from demand he admit receiving illegal benefits at Duke - Yahoo Sports - June 1st, 2020
- One of the coldest places on Earth is experiencing a record-breaking heat wave - Yahoo News - June 1st, 2020
- Walmart stores suffer damage from George Floyd protests and looting several hundred forced to close early - Yahoo Finance - June 1st, 2020
- Dragon-riding astronauts join exclusive inner circle at NASA - Yahoo News - June 1st, 2020
- EU urges U.S. to reconsider decision to cut ties with WHO - Yahoo News - June 1st, 2020
- Asymptomatic COVID-19 cases may be more common than suspected - Yahoo News - June 1st, 2020
- Turner: 'The Match' was most-watched golf event in cable history - Yahoo Sports - June 1st, 2020
- If Kevin Stefanski can't turn around Baker Mayfield who is 'way more talented' than Kirk Cousins Browns are in trouble - Yahoo Sports - June 1st, 2020
- China-India border: Why tensions are rising between the neighbours - Yahoo News - June 1st, 2020
- Kentucky Basketball: Where the Wildcats stand in Yahoo NBA Mock Draft - A Sea Of Blue - June 1st, 2020
- Oil Trades at Six-Week High on Supply Cuts and Demand Recovery - Yahoo Canada Finance - May 15th, 2020
- Man and woman 'found walking on road with body parts in suitcases' - Yahoo News Australia - May 15th, 2020
- Moscow says it ascribed over 60% of coronavirus deaths in April to other causes - Yahoo News - May 15th, 2020
- Letters to the Editor: Ahmaud Arbery's killing was heinous, but it wasn't a surprise - Yahoo News - May 15th, 2020
- The pandemic may have solved MLB's most polarizing debate: Get ready for the universal DH - Yahoo Sports - May 15th, 2020
- Philippines evacuates hundreds of thousands as typhoon makes landfall - Yahoo News - May 15th, 2020
- Coronavirus: Scientists want to investigate if mouthwash kills the infection - Yahoo Lifestyle - May 15th, 2020
- Former MLB manager Art Howe in ICU with coronavirus - Yahoo Sports - May 15th, 2020
- Surviving the coronavirus is one thing. Recovering is another - Yahoo News - May 15th, 2020
- Why 14.7% unemployment doesnt tell the whole story: Yahoo U - Yahoo Finance - May 14th, 2020
- TSMC to Build Chip Plant in Arizona With Government Support - Yahoo Finance Australia - May 14th, 2020
- Coronavirus: What American workers should know about their rights as the economy reopens - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- Companies are dropping big hints about the 'new normal' once coronavirus lockdowns end - Yahoo Finance - May 14th, 2020
- Wuhan reopened last month. Now, new coronavirus infections spark mass testing and renewed fears - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- Why this inactive slugger might be MLB's highest-paid player in 2020 - Yahoo Sports - May 14th, 2020
- Goodbye offices? Working from home might be here to stay - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- Ahmaud Arbery: What do we know about the case? - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- Rand Paul: Pandemic Response Marred by Wrong Prediction after Wrong Prediction - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- Report: Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland will not return to ESPN's MNF booth - Yahoo Sports - May 14th, 2020
- UFC 249 delivers a welcome distraction from pandemic-afflicted world - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- 'More than sufficient probable cause' in US killing of black jogger - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- Jerry Stiller's death has a baseball star from the 1990s unexpectedly trending - Yahoo Sports - May 14th, 2020
- Sources: NBA commissioner Adam Silver says 'there will be a series of bad options' regarding continuation of season - Yahoo Sports - May 14th, 2020
- Supreme Court appears split on whether Congress and prosecutors can see Trump's tax returns - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020
- Tom Brady slams report claiming his relationship with Patriots OC Josh McDaniels had deteriorated - Yahoo Sports - May 14th, 2020
- New Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows mixed reactions to Biden's handling of Tara Reade assault claim - Yahoo News - May 14th, 2020