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Justice Department closes investigations into Loeffler, Feinstein, Inhofe

The agency is still examining Sen. Richard Burr's stock trades

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., is no longer under DOJ scrutiny.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., is no longer under DOJ scrutiny. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Three senators under Department of Justice scrutiny for stock trades after coronavirus briefings had their matters closed by the agency Tuesday, but a fourth lawmaker — Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C. — remains under investigation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican and Sen. James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, were all notified by DOJ prosecutors through their defense attorneys, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

The senators all sold significant amounts of stock before the coronavirus pandemic decimated the financial markets. The market plunge began in late February and after the Senate received briefings on the coming pandemic.

Although the DOJ investigations have run their course for the trio of senators, that does not necessarily mean the Securities and Exchange Commission’s inquiries are halted, according to Jacob S. Frenkel, a former senior counsel in the SEC’s enforcement division.

“The closing of the DOJ investigations does not mean that the SEC’s investigations are closed, because the burden of proof for the Government is much higher in a criminal case — reasonable doubt — than in a civil enforcement action — preponderance of the evidence,” Frenkel said.

Frenkel added that he expects the SEC investigations into Feinstein, Loeffler and Inhofe will also come to a close based on the evidence.

Judith Burns, an SEC spokesperson, declined to comment on whether the SEC is investigating any of the senators.

On May 14, the day Burr stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kerry Rom, a spokesperson for Loeffler said she “forwarded documents and information to DOJ, the SEC, and the Senate Ethics Committee.”

Burr had his phone seized by federal agents and relinquished his post as Intelligence Committee chairman pending the investigation. He sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in his securities holdings on Feb. 13, after his panel began receiving daily coronavirus briefings, ProPublica first reported.

Caitlin Carroll, a spokesperson for Burr, declined comment.

Loeffler began selling off stock on Jan. 24, the same day White House officials briefed her and her Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee colleagues about the coronavirus. She sold over $1 million in stock, according to The Daily Beast.

Feinstein’s husband sold between $1 million and $5 million in Allogene Therapeutics Inc. on Feb. 18. Feinstein is a California Democrat who serves on the Intelligence panel and was previously its chairwoman.

Inhofe sold between $180,000 and $400,000 of his stock holdings on Jan. 27. That includes between $15,000 and $50,000 in Apple Inc. and PayPal Holdings Inc. each. That transaction report includes sales between $50,000 and $100,000 in Intuit Inc., Danaher Corporation and Brookfield Asset Management. Inhofe also sold between $50,000 and $100,000 in Brookfield Asset Management on Feb. 20.

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