Justice Department makes public search warrant targeting Sen. Richard Burr over stock trades

The Justice Department on Friday released a search warrant it used to obtain Senator Richard M. Burr’s cellphone as part of an investigation into his stock transactions early in the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The department released the search warrant and accompanying affidavit in response to a lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles Times. Much of the affidavit was heavily redacted, providing few insights into the evidence the FBI had collected and used to get a federal judge’s permission to seize the phone.

Justice Department attorneys argued in court filings filed Friday that much of the information should remain redacted in part because it contains “extensive details of interviews with private third-party witnesses whose role in the investigation is not public knowledge.” The Justice Department, which had campaigned for more than a year to block disclosure of the records, recently lost a key Court of Appeal ruling that paved the way for her release.

The fight for the records stems from a nationwide investigation that began in 2020 into whether Burr, a North Carolina Republican who is not running for re-election, illegally used information from congressional briefings about the coronavirus to sell stocks in the Valued at $1.65 million for sale. Burr was never charged with any trafficking-related crimes.

The Times first reported in May 2020 that federal agents, relying on a search warrant, obtained Burr’s cellphone as part of their investigation. The Justice Department confirmed in its court filings on Friday that it dropped those investigations in January 2021. A month later, the Times filed its lawsuit, arguing that the recordings should be made public.

A federal appeals court in March overturned an earlier decision by US Chief District Judge Beryl Howell that blocked public access to the search warrant, citing Burr’s right to privacy. The court ruled that Howell misapplied the law in her May 2021 order and failed to adequately consider the public’s interest in the materials.

Howell last month ordered the Justice Department to release an edited version of the materials and explain why portions of them should remain sealed.

An attorney for Burr and a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Times lawyers, who work for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Burr was one of several senators — including California Democrat Dianne Feinstein — whose stock sales and purchases early in the COVID-19 pandemic were under investigation by the Justice Department for possible violations of a congressional insider trading law. However, this was the only case in which arrest warrants were obtained. All investigations were dropped without charge.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-17/justice-department-makes-public-burr-stock-trading-warrant-in-times-lawsuit Justice Department makes public search warrant targeting Sen. Richard Burr over stock trades

Alley Einstein

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