Marco Rubio tapped as acting chairman of Senate intel panel, replacing Richard Burr amid stock investigation

Key Points
  • Sen. Marco Rubio will replace Sen. Richard Burr as the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee as the North Carolina Republican faces a federal investigation into stock sales he made in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Burr has denied wrongdoing and said he is cooperating with FBI investigators who are examining stock sales that he made in mid-February.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Rubio's position a "temporary assignment." 
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Michael Brochstein | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will lead the influential Senate Intelligence Committee as its acting chairman, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement on Monday. 

Rubio is replacing Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican, who stepped down on Thursday amid a federal probe of stock trades he made in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"The senior senator for Florida is a talented and experienced Senate leader with expertise in foreign affairs and national security matters," McConnell said in a statement, calling the position a "temporary assignment."

Rubio, 48, ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 and has been considered a rising star in Republican politics. He is the chairman of the Senate's small business and entrepreneurship committee. 

Burr has denied wrongdoing and said he is cooperating with FBI investigators who are examining stock sales that he made in mid-February. 

Burr sold shares worth between $630,000 and $1.7 million on Feb. 13 after receiving a number of briefings on Covid-19 and shortly before stocks sank on fears of a global slowdown.

Federal agents seized Burr's phone on Wednesday as part of a criminal investigation into those sales, according to NBC News.

FBI agents had previously served a warrant on Apple to get information from Burr's iCloud account, according to The Los Angeles Times, which first reported on the investigative steps. 

Burr has said the sales were inspired by public reporting out of Asia, including by CNBC.

"I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks," the senator said in a March statement. "Specifically, I closely followed CNBC's daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time." 

Burr's brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, also sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of shares that day, ProPublica reported. Burr's attorney Alice Fisher said that the two did not coordinate the sales. 

On Thursday, when Burr stepped down as intelligence committee chairman, he said the investigation was "a distraction to the hard work of the committee, and the members and I think that the security of the country is too important to have a distraction." 

The intelligence committee, which is co-chaired by Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, is currently finishing the final report on its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. 

In a statement, Rubio said he was grateful to McConnell "for his confidence in me to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee during Senator Burr's absence from the Chairmanship."

"The Committee has long been one that conducts its work seriously, and I look forward to continuing that tradition," he said.