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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Sen. Richard Burr will be stepping aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee during the investigation into his stock trades, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday.

“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision," McConnell wrote in a 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."


FBI agents served a search warrant to Burr at his Washington, D.C.-area home on Wednesday night as part of an investigation into stock sales he made in February before the stock market crash in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The North Carolina Republican turned his cellphone over to federal agents, the newspaper reported, citing an unidentified law enforcement official. Another unnamed law enforcement official told the paper that the FBI previously had used another warrant to obtain access to Burr's Apple iCloud account as part of its investigation.

Burr came under scrutiny after ProPublica reported in March that he sold off a significant percentage of his stocks shortly before the market declined, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions. As chairman of the intelligence committee and a member of the health committee, Burr had access to the government's most highly classified information about threats to America's security and public health concerns.

On the same day, Burr's brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, a member of the National Mediation Board, sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of shares in six companies — including several that have been hit particularly hard in the market swoon and economic downturn. A person who picked up Fauth's phone previously declined to comment.

Before his sell-off, Burr had assured the public that the federal government was well-prepared to handle the virus. In a Feb. 7 op-ed that he co-authored with another senator, he said “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus."

That month however, according to a recording obtained by NPR, Burr had given a VIP group at an exclusive social club a much more dire preview of the economic impact of the coronavirus, warning it could curtail business travel, cause schools to be closed and result in the military mobilizing to compensate for overwhelmed hospitals.

Burr's Senate spokesperson declined to comment, as did the FBI.

Burr has defended his actions, saying he relied solely on public information, including CNBC reports, to inform his trades and did not rely on information he obtained as a senator.

ProPublica has also reported that Burr has frequently traded in medical stocks while working on legislation that could impact the industry, made a timely sale of his stake in an obscure Dutch fertilizer company before its stock plummeted and sold his Washington townhouse to a lobbyist and donor who had business before his committees.

Do you know where Richard Burr resides in Washington, D.C.? If so, or if you have any other tips about Burr or the stock trades of other government officials, email Robert.faturechi@propublica.org or reach him on Signal at 213-271-7217.

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Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)