Columnist says Trump may be implicated in Sen. Burr's 'moral crime' in coronavirus scandal
Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been drawing a great deal of criticism this week. National Public Radio’s Tim Mak reported that according to a recording from February 27, Burr warned attendees at a private luncheon that coronavirus could be “akin to the 1918 pandemic” — an assertion that, Mak said, Burr wasn’t making publicly at the time. And on Thursday night, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson slammed Burr over reports that he sold a significant amount of stock weeks before coronavirus caused the market to crash. Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin doesn’t agree with Carlson often, but in her Friday column, the Never Trump conservative finds some rare common ground with the Fox News host and frequent Trump apologist.
On Thursday night, Carlson said of Burr’s reported stock sale, “Maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, then he should share it with the rest of us immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading.”
Rubin, in response to Carlson’s attack on Burr, writes, “Those of us who typically abhor Carlson’s blatant racism and xenophobia might be surprised to find themselves agreeing with his sentiment. A broken clock is right twice a day, but we should examine precisely what constitutes the ‘moral crime.’”
The Post columnist and MSNBC contributor goes on to explain why there are “actually two moral offenses” with Burr.
“The first is concealing from the public the magnitude of the crisis,” Rubin writes. “Privately sharing with political insiders the extent of the impending pandemic — as is alleged against Burr, though he disputed the allegations on Twitter as a ‘tabloid-style hit piece’ — might be evidence that he knew things were far worse than what he was telling the public.”
Rubin continues, “The second moral offense is profiting off of it. Anyone in public office who had access to the sort of briefing Burr and others received should immediately disclose their stock transactions before the market crashed. House and Senate Democrats should insist this be part of the stimulus bill. We need to know everyone in the executive and legislative branch who cashed in. As Carlson said, they should then all be forced to resign and answer questions from investigators.”
Rubin notes, however, that Burr told the Post he “filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak.” And Rubin adds that according to legal expert Renato Mariotti, very specific criteria must be met with the federal crime of insider trading.
The conservative columnist goes on to cite Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia as another Republican who made “similar” stock sales before the market crashed. Rubin writes that even though Loeffler “might have an airtight defense against possible insider-trading allegations,” she still committed a “moral crime”: publicly downplaying the severity of coronavirus.
Loeffler, Rubin writes, “remained quiet as the president insisted the media had cooked up a ‘hoax.’ She did not stand out among her fellow Republicans by warning private businesses or health-care providers to prepare. She lulled her constituents into a false sense of security. To paraphrase Carlson, many would consider that she ‘betrayed her country’ to bolster the president.”
Loeffler and “many others,” according to Rubin, “were briefed on the peril and told the public a far different story.” On March 10, Loeffler tweeted, “Concerned about #coronavirus? Remember this: The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe.”
Concerned about #coronavirus? Remember this: The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, w… https://t.co/5uiFLmssx8— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@Senator Kelly Loeffler) 1583882675.0
The criticisms that Burr and Loeffler are being inundated with, Rubin writes, raise an important question: “What did Trump know, and when did he know it?”
Rubin asserts, “If Trump got no briefings telling him otherwise and believed the gibberish spouted by Fox News, he is the most negligent and incompetent president in history. However, if he knew otherwise — if he knew that the pandemic was coming and would have devastating consequences — then he betrayed his country in some futile attempt to keep the stock market pumped up for as long as possible.”
Back in January and February, there were many warnings from health professionals that COVID-19 could become globally devastating. Yet Trump continued to insist that it didn’t pose a major threat to the United States.
“The central political and moral issue raised by the virus — perhaps even more devastating than an attempt to enlist a foreign government to investigate a political foe — is whether the president intentionally misled the country, thereby preventing the sort of preparation that could have saved thousands, if not millions, of lives,” Rubin asserts. “Anyone who would do that would be an immoral monster.”