Senator Richard Burr—who was definitely not using secret information when he unloaded up to $1.7 million in stock just before the coronavirus sent the stock market into a tailspin in February, because that would be a crime—had another extraordinary bit of good timing in 2018, ProPublica reports

Over three days in September, Burr and his wife sold off almost $47,000 worth of shares in an obscure Dutch fertilizer company when the stock was at a four-year apex—and weeks before it began a 40 percent freefall.

Investors might have turned on the company, OCI, which is not traded in the U.S., because it didn’t meet second-quarter earnings expectations. Or, ProPublica reports, maybe it had something to do with changes in the Trump administration’s trade policies that damaged the company’s outlook. 

As ProPublica explains: “The company had been positioned to benefit from the expected sanctions on Iranian oil and petrochemical imports. But in November 2018, the Trump administration waived some of those restrictions. The waivers undercut the company’s hopes.”

Here we have a few potential issues: 1) Why is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee investing in a Dutch company no one’s ever heard of that was about to strike it rich off of U.S. sanctions? 2) How exactly did he know to sell the stock of said Dutch company at just the right time, and did he know that the administration was considering waiving sanctions? 

As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Burr would have access to sensitive matters related to Iran, though it’s not clear whether or not he knew about the decision to waive sanctions. Neither Burr nor OCI responded to ProPublica’s request for comment. 

Burr’s selloff in February is the subject of an FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission probe. According to a recent poll, 50 percent of North Carolina voters believe Burr should resign. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at 

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