Insider trading: The senators who sold stock
Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) are now “the poster children for the duplicity, graft, swampiness, and incompetence” of the Republican Party’s coronavirus response, said Tim Miller in TheBulwark.com. On Jan. 24, both attended a private Senate briefing in which top government scientists spelled out the dire risks to America of what was still a regional outbreak in China’s Hubei province. Both could have warned the public, but instead they dumped millions in stock while continuing to publicly parrot President Trump’s “absurd proclamations” that everything was going to be fine. In Loeffler’s case, she also bought shares in a teleworking company whose stock price has since risen, and then had the gall to publicly bash Democrats for “dangerously and intentionally” exaggerating the crisis.
Their explanations for their disgraceful behavior are laughable, said David Marcus in NYPost.com. The wealthy Loeffler, whose husband is the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, claims she had no idea her brokers were “selling off stocks like unwanted stepchildren.” Burr says he sold as much as $1.8 million worth of shares, including those of two vulnerable hotel stocks, only because of news reports he saw on CNBC—not the briefings he got from the Intelligence Committee. Still, it will be hard to prosecute them, said Renato Mariotti in Politico.com. To prove criminal insider trading, investigators must establish that the senators were told something during the briefing that wasn’t publicly available. In addition, the 2012 law barring insider trading by members of Congress, under which this difficult-to-prove case would be brought, has been untested in court. “Ironically, Burr was one of only three senators” to vote against that law.
Sadly, few Americans will be surprised by this “revolting tale,” said Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. From the crisis’ start, the “rich and famous got tests” while the rest of us were left in the dark with our fears. “No doubt they’ll have priority for ventilators too.” This all raises another question, said Jennifer Rubin, also in the Post. Trump probably got the same dire intelligence warnings about a coming pandemic as Loeffler and Burr. If so, that would mean “he betrayed his country in some futile attempt to keep the stock market pumped up for as long as possible” with his misleading, rosy rhetoric. Delaying the U.S. response for selfish political reasons would make Trump “an immoral monster.”