Donald Trump’s allies don’t much like Richard Burr. But they’d prefer the president keep out of the criminal investigation of the senator.
The revelation that Burr was under FBI investigation for potential insider trading rocked Capitol Hill on Thursday, May 14, 2020. But Trump, who often relishes commenting on the news of the day, was restrained when asked about the situation. And, if anything, his broader circle of family and friends was sharply critical of North Carolina Republican.
The reasoning, according to five Republicans close to the White House, is mainly political: Burr’s home state of North Carolina is crucial to the Trump’s electoral prospects in November. It’s a key state Trump hopes to win again and the Republican Party is planning to hold its nominating convention there in August. Additionally, North Carolina’s other senator, Republican Thom Tillis, faces a tough reelection that is critical for retaining GOP control of the Senate.
“He’ll stay out of it,” a former Trump adviser predicted. “Getting involved could hurt him politically.”
Yet Burr has also never been popular in Trump’s circles. Trump allies are angry that Burr, as Senate Intelligence Committee chair, oversaw his panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Last year, he issued a subpoena to the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., even after special counsel Robert Mueller completed his own Russian election meddling report. Later, Burr also authorized the release of a committee report that affirmed the intelligence community’s findings that Russia intended to help Trump win with its meddling.
“Wanting his kids to testify was a red line,” said another Republican close to the White House.
The anger spilled over Thursday.
“Now I hope we see some action,” Trump Jr. tweeted in response to a tweet about Burr’s announcement that he will step down as chairman of the influential intelligence panel while under investigation for stock trades he made just before the market collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, Trump hasn’t said much.
In answer to a question Thursday, Trump said he had not heard Burr was stepping down from his chairmanship.
“That’s too bad,” he said.
Trump said he had not discussed the investigation with the Justice Department. “I knew nothing about it, nothing about it,” he said. “No, I never discussed it with anybody.”
Some allies worry Burr’s troubles could also cast a spotlight on Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who sold millions of dollars in stocks after she received a private coronavirus briefing. Loeffler faces Rep. Doug Collins, (R-Ga.) in a special election in the emerging battleground state.
The Trump campaign declined to comment about Burr.
Even before the latest developments in Burr’s case, some Republicans were calling for him to step down from his intel perch. But the situation escalated quickly this week. A senior Justice Department official confirmed on Thursday that a warrant was served on Burr’s lawyer for the senator’s cellphone. The warrant was approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department, the official said, adding that authorities did not conduct a raid. The subpoena was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
“As chairman of Senate Intel, Richard Burr ran interference for the corrupt intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracy behind the attempted coup against Trump,” tweeted Sean Davis, co-founder of the conservative Federalist website. “With the FBI raid of his home and seizure of his phone, I wonder if Burr regrets his refusal to do actual oversight.”
Burr said Thursday he has been “been fully cooperative with everyone investigating me” and said he’d “absolutely” serve out the remainder of his term.
If he did resign, North Carolina is just one of a few states where the governor is required to appoint a successor of the same party as the senator. The requirement for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to appoint a Republican could embolden some Trump allies or even the president himself to speak out against him, a former Senate Republican aide said.
A former Trump adviser predicted Trump will stay out of Burr’s case for a while but that he will eventually weigh in when he hears allies complaining about him.
“It’s only a matter of time,” the person said.
Raw Story: Trump avoiding criticism of Richard Burr’s stock-dumping scandal because his state is crucial for 2020: report
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