Sen. Richard Burr certainly looks to be in some significant legal jeopardy over his curiously well-timed stock trades right after getting some confidential briefings on the growing coronavirus pandemic back in January. While the other three senators caught up in the FBI’s dragnet were cleared yesterday—although not before probably destroying the reelection chances of President Trump’s disfavored Republican candidate for her own seat, Kelly Loeffler (R-New York Stock Exchange)—Burr’s cellphone was seized and he stepped down as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee two weeks ago. This certainly looks bad, especially since, unlike Jim Inhofe, Burr can’t say he didn’t attend those briefings, and unwisely and unlike the other three, he makes his own trades rather than handing that responsibility—and liability—over to non-political professionals.
But Bill Barr wasn’t made attorney general to put Republicans in jail and he knows it, so while the FBI digs through Burr’s phone and pores through his trading records, he’s already figured out how to make that a waste of time no matter how damning the evidence.
Prosecutors are now examining whether the wide latitude granted to lawmakers under the speech and debate clause of the U.S. Constitution would limit their ability to win any insider-trading trial against Mr. Burr, the people said…. Since the information Mr. Burr might have allegedly used relates directly to legislative work and closed-door Senate briefings, his actions could fall under the constitutional protection, experts said, and could limit prosecutors’ ability to bring any case….
In 2012, President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act to outlaw members of Congress and other government staff from engaging in insider trading based on information learned through their jobs, but few such cases have since been brought.
That legislation doesn’t override the constitutional protections, so any case is likely to result in litigation that could eventually go to the Supreme Court.