The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Tillis declines to say whether Burr should step down as Senate Intelligence chairman because of stock trade investigation

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)
Placeholder while article actions load

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) declined to say Wednesday whether his North Carolina colleague, Sen. Richard Burr (R), should stay on as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying only that the decision is up to GOP leadership.

Tillis, who is up for reelection in November, made the remark in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who also writes an opinion column for The Washington Post.

Burr has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for stock trades he made as the United States braced for the coronavirus pandemic. The Justice Department is investigating the trades, and Burr has faced calls from some corners to resign.

In Wednesday’s radio interview, Hewitt raised the topic and said that he believes Burr “ought to step down as chairman of the Intel Committee.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) have faced calls to resign on March 20, after reports surfaced detailing significant stock sales. (Video: Reuters)

“Has there been any conversation with him about that?” he asked Tillis.

Tillis replied that he hadn’t discussed the matter with Burr and noted that the Senate Ethics Committee and Department of Justice are investigating.

“We’ll have to see where the facts lead,” he said.

Hewitt kept pressing and declared of Burr, “I have no confidence in him until this is done.”

“Well, regardless of what happens with the investigation, I think Senator Burr owes everybody in North Carolina and the United States an explanation, and we’ll see where the investigation goes,” Tillis replied. “With respect to his chairmanship, that’s a decision that … would be better left to him and the leadership.”

Some Republicans, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), have called for Burr to be immediately removed from his position leading the panel because of the controversy.

In mid-February, Burr sold 33 stocks held by him and his wife, estimated to be worth $628,033 to $1.7 million, Senate financial disclosures show. It was the largest number of stocks he had sold in one day since at least 2016, records show.

While he was receiving daily briefings on the mounting pandemic, Burr publicly played down the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.

Burr was dealt some further bad news Tuesday with the publication of a ProPublica report that delved into the details of the senator’s 2017 off-market sale of his home in the District.

According to the report, Burr sold the townhouse for $900,000, an above-market price, to a group led by a longtime donor and a lobbyist who had business before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

A Burr spokesperson told ProPublica that the townhouse was sold for its fair market value, that an independent appraisal had been conducted and that the Senate Ethics Committee was notified before the sale.

Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.