Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is stepping aside as chairman of the Intelligence Committee amid a Justice Department investigation of his stock trades, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday.
“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 said in a written statement. “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.”
A senior Justice Department official told NPR that the FBI executed a search warrant Wednesday and seized Burr’s cellphone. The news of the search was first reported in The Los Angeles Times.
Speaking to a C-Span reporter Thursday, Burr said he was cooperating with investigators.
“Everybody ought to let this investigation play out,” he said.
When asked why he stepped away from his committee chairmanship, Burr said: “This is a distraction to the hard work of the committee and the members, and I think the security of the country is too important to have a distraction.”
At issue are stock trades Burr made before the market crash caused by the coronavirus pandemic. ProPublica reported that he dumped up to $1.7 million in stocks, while assuring the public that the U.S. was well positioned to withstand the outbreak.
Burr and fellow Senate Republican Kelly Loeffler of Georgia faced scrutiny for dumping millions of dollars in stocks ahead of the economic downturn. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Two other lawmakers, Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., were criticized for selling stocks ahead of the market crash, though both have said they did not have direct involvement in the sales, Reuters reports.