Senator Richard Burr is in trouble. The FBI issued a warrant and confiscated his cell phone last night in its probe of stock trades the Senator made just before the market crashed in March. Burr and his brother-in-law both sold a large amount of stock after Burr received briefings on the coronavirus. Burr claims that he made the decision based on information available to the general public but he wrote an op-ed saying that the U.S. government was prepared to handle a pandemic. 

A former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig, tweeted, “Bad news for Senator Burr. To get a search warrant, a prosecutor must show and a judge must find probable cause that a crime was committed and that evidence of the crime likely will be found.” Clearly, investigators do not believe Burr’s claims of innocence. 

I’ve watched Richard Burr for years. I’ve never thought that he’s an inherently bad or malicious person. He’s just not the brightest bulb in the room and he has very few original thoughts. He wants to do his job and maintain the status quo, whatever that may be. He probably has vague conservative principles but he’s really a party man and he’ll serve the interests of the GOP. Burr is mediocrity to the core. 

Burr has gotten into this mess because benefitting from insider information is part of the status quo he likes. I doubt he thought much about whether selling the stocks was legal or ethical. He just followed the GOP’s Randian mantra of pursuing his self-interest. In Washington, information is currency and he converted his into dollars. I’m sure he thought that what he did is ok because nobody got hurt. 

Burr, though, has two perception problems that lead to doubts about his motives. Back in 2012, Burr was one of only three Senators to vote against a bill that would have explicitly made insider trading among Members of Congress illegal. It’s that bill that he may have violated. 

Just days before selling his stock, Burr wrote an op-ed for Fox News telling the public that U.S. government was prepared to handle the pandemic. I suspect Burr agreed to sign onto the op-ed without much thought of the content or implications. He was just being a good soldier, passing along the disinformation that was standard GOP messaging at the time. The disconnect between reality and what the article said probably never occurred to him. That’s a gray matter problem, but it sure makes him look deceitful. 

Burr has said that he’s not seeking re-election in 2022. His troubles today ensures that he won’t back down from that pledge. Even if he survives this investigation, his career is tainted. He managed to spend almost 30 years in Washington with no significant accomplishments. He’s most know for not wearing socks and driving a Volkswagen Thing. Now, he will likely be most remembered from profiting off of a pandemic. What an ignominious ending to an utterly mediocre career. 

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