It takes a lot of effort to displace Donald Trump as the most despised elected official in America. But North Carolina’s senior Senator, Richard Burr, may have found a way to do just that. On Thursday, ProPublica reported that Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, unloaded a tranche of stock after he began receiving classified briefings about the state of the coronavirus pandemic.
Depending on the calculation, Burr reaped a windfall of anywhere between $628,000 and $1.7 million in 33 separate sales on February 13. This came a week before the stock market began what has become a month-long slide as the virus spread around the world. In other words, the very definition of the kind of swampy behavior that Trump supposedly wanted rooted out.
Within hours of this news breaking, Twitter exploded with calls for Burr to resign. But any doubt that this story would be swept under the rug evaporated on Thursday night, when Fox News’ Tucker Carlson gave Burr an ultimatum–unless you can give a full accounting for these sales, you must resign. Watch here.
Carlson minced no words. Despite having “inside information” about how dire things could get, he didn’t disavow a rosy op-ed he’d written earlier for Fox News about how prepared the country was to face the outbreak. Nor did he make any effort to warn the public. Instead, Carlson said, he unloaded a truckload of hotel stock.
Carlson demanded that Burr resign at once unless he can provide “an honest explanation” for these sales. He even went as far as to suggest Burr’s actions bordered on treason, saying that there was “no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis.”
This is bigger than you think. Remember, folks, Trump was only willing to face reality about this outbreak after Carlson traveled to Mar-a-Lago to call Trump out. Additionally, ProPublica has frequently been the target of hackles, and at times even worse, for its coverage of some of the right’s shadier doings. In August 2017, for instance, ProPublica’s email servers were rendered all but unusable due to a massive denial of service attack.
Does this make Carlson the new leader of the Republican Party? It’s a fair question. What is beyond dispute is that elements of right-wing Twitter are up in arms–ironically, over a story broken by an outlet that many of them normally consider fake news. Apparently this was too swampy even for their tastes.
For instance, when right-wing blogger Mike Cernovich saw Carlson’s report, he hit the ceiling.
Cernovich was equally outraged after reports from The Daily Beast about an equally swampy stock dump by another Republican Senator, newly appointed Kelly Loeffler of Georgia.
Cernovich, and nearly everyone else in this country, has every right to be upset. According to Vanity Fair, Loeffler made 29 separate stock transactions after attending a January meeting about the outbreak, making anywhere between $1.2 million and $3.1 million. Those stocks have lost over one-third of their value since then.
Cernovich told Loeffler the only defensible reason for her to keep her job is if she had placed her stock in a blind trust after being appointed to Johnny Isakson’s old seat.
That applies in equal measure to Burr as well.
Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA was equally livid.
Kirk erred in calling this outbreak a “Chinese virus” in disregard of explicit World Health Organization guidance against using that term. But at least he appeared to get it. Sadly, though, Kirk managed to find a way to suggest this was karma for Burr actually standing up to Trump.
Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit also managed to find a way to use this scandal as a way to attack Burr for not kissing Trump’s ring enough.
Kirk and Hoft must have had so much covfefe that they can’t see the forest for the trees. It shouldn’t matter how loyal Burr and Loeffler were to Trump. The only thing that matters is that two United States Senators appear to have used their knowledge of this outbreak to unload stock, knowing that in all likelihood the markets were going to get pulverized.
Let’s give Carlson and Cernovich credit for taking off their red blinders and calling this for what it is–a fundamental breach of the public trust, and a display of utter contempt for the people of North Carolina and Georgia. Unless Burr and Loeffler are willing to give a full accounting for this in a way they makes sense to us, they need to resign before the weekend is out. When a United States Senator shows this level of contempt for the people they represent, it’s time for that Senator to go.
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