As Richard Burr Rushes to Release Volume Five of SSCI’s Russian Investigation, the FBI Closes In

Update: As I was posting this, reports that Burr is stepping down as Chair of SSCI came out.

The LAT has a big scoop revealing that the FBI seized Richard Burr’s cell phone yesterday, having gotten a probable cause warrant incorporating information they obtained via a search of his iCloud.

Federal agents seized a cellphone belonging to a prominent Republican senator on Wednesday night as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into controversial stock trades he made as the novel coronavirus first struck the U.S., a law enforcement official said.


Such a warrant being served on a sitting U.S. senator would require approval from the highest ranks of the Justice Department and is a step that would not be taken lightly. Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.

A second law enforcement official said FBI agents served a warrant in recent days on Apple to obtain information from Burr’s iCloud account and said agents used data obtained from the California-based company as part of the evidence used to obtain the warrant for the senator’s phone.


The same day Burr sold his stocks, Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of six stocks, according to documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics. Fauth serves on the National Mediation Board, which provides mediation for labor disputes in the aviation and rail industries.

Burr has denied coordinating trading with his brother-in-law.

Given the progression from an iCloud warrant to the warrant for the cell phone, it’s likely the FBI is seeking out texts between Burr and his brother-in-law around the time of the stock sales. (The FBI often access iCloud to find out what apps someone has accessed, obtains a pen register to identify communications of interest using that app, then seizes the phone to get those encrypted communications.)

The public evidence again Burr is quite damning, so there’s no question that this is a properly predicated investigation.

Still, coming from a DOJ that has gone to great lengths to protect other looting (and has not taken similar public steps against Kelly Loeffler), the move does raise questions.

Particularly given the focus that Richard Burr gave, during the John Ratcliffe confirmation hearing, to getting the final volume of the SSCI Report on 2016 declassified and released by August.

Richard Burr: Congressman, over the course of the last three years this committee has issued four reports about Russia’s meddling in our elections covering Russia’s intrusions into state election systems, their use of social media to attempt to influence the election, and. most recently confirming the findings of the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment. While being mindful of the fact that we’re, um, in an unclassified setting, what are your views on Russia’s meddling in our elections?

John Ratcliffe: Chairman, my views are that Russia meddled or interfered with Active Measures in 2016, they interfered in 2018, they will attempt to do so in 2018 [sic]. They have a goal of sowing discord, and they have been successful in sowing discord. Fortunately, based on the work–the good work of this committee, we know that they may have been successful in that regard but they have not been successful in changing votes or the outcome of any election. The Intelligence Community, as you know, plays a vital role on insuring we have safe, secure, and credible elections and that every vote cast by every American is done so properly and counted properly.

Burr: Will you commit to bringing information about threats to the election infrastructure and about foreign governments’ efforts to influence to Congress so we’re fully and currently informed?

Ratcliffe: I will.

Burr; Will you commit to testify at this committee’s annual worldwide threats hearing?

Ratcliffe: I will.

Burr: And last question, over the last three years we have issued four reports. Number five is finished. Number five will go for declassification. Do we have your commitment as DNI that you would expeditiously go through the declassification process?

Ratcliffe: You do.

Burr: Senator Warner.

Mark Warner: Thank you Mr. Chairman. You actually took some of my questions.

Burr: My eyesight is good.

Warner: Mr. Ratcliffe, good to see you again and I appreciated our time, um, um, last Friday. I want to follow-up on a couple of the Chairman’s questions first. As we discussed, we’re … Volume Five, and so far our first four volumes have all been unanimous. Or maybe with the exception of one dissenting vote. If we get this document to the ODNI we need your commitment not only that we do it expeditiously, but as much as possible to get that Volume Five reviewed, redacted, and released, ideally before the August, the August recess. Now, I know you’ve not seen the report yet. All I would ask is, aspirationally that you commit to that goal, because I think as we discussed, to have a document that could be [big pause] potentially significant come out in the midst of a presidential campaign isn’t good or fair on either side. So if I could clarify a bit, recognizing that you’ve not seen the document is a thousand pages, that you’d try to get this cleared prior to August.

Ratcliffe: Vice Chairman, I would again, commit that I would work with you to get that as expeditiously as possible.

During the 2018 election, Burr had — at a time when the committee assuredly did not have the ability to rule it out — twice said there was no evidence of “collusion.” Burr has made no such claims recently.

Even just the Roger Stone disclosures from his trial make it clear “collusion” happened, and that’s ignoring the ongoing Foreign Agent investigation involving Stone. And the Intelligence Committees have been briefed on the existence of — and possibly some details about — either that or other ongoing investigations.

If Richard Burr is prepping to reverse his prior public comments about “collusion,” it might explain why the Bill Barr DOJ, which has stopped hiding that it is an instrument used to enforce political loyalty to Trump, would more aggressively investigate Burr than others.

Again, there’s no question that this is a properly predicated investigation. But in the Barr DOJ, properly predicated investigations about political allies of Trump all get quashed. This one has, instead, been aggressively and overtly pursued.

44 replies
  1. Herringbone says:

    Marcy, thanks as always for what has turned out to be prescient analysis.

    So if Burr’s out as chair, can he still push for declassification?

  2. Yogarhythms says:

    “Burr has denied coordinating trading with his brother-in-law.”
    TFW your cabin on the cruise ship is about to be serviced by the (virus crew ) i mean FBI and you cannot not answer the door. Happy Thursday Senator Burr.

  3. Mister Sterling says:

    It won’t be long before the DOJ drops this case. I don’t know why he resigned. He’s bot being arrested. I’m surprised the Senate hasn’t passed a bill granting criminal immunity to all registered republicans. It would make sense to keep them in power and avoid prosecution.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Burr’s resignation does make sense as an attempt to deflect the retaliatory selective “justice” being aimed at him–not for his insider-trading sins (those just provide conveniently public cover) but for his bucking the Trump party line on Russia. Now that Barr has almost succeeded in scrubbing the truth about 2016 from history as it is written in the official record, Burr will find himself increasingly isolated. Unlike Romney, he has a massive legal vulnerability and knows all too well the extent to which Trump’s vindictive purge of the disloyal could claim him too.

    • Peterr says:

      Burr did not resign. He temporarily stepped aside from chairing the SSCI, but (per Politico) he still remains a member of the committee and a member of the US Senate.

      But Charlie Pierce asks a good question on the subject of Sen Burr: “Is it possible that William Barr’s Department of Justice is going after Burr for the capital crime of Not Being Devin Nunes?”

      Why, yes. Yes, I believe it is very possible.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Thanks for correcting my terminology, Peterr. Burr “not being Devin Nunez,” and hence being subjected to very public criminal investigation, was my point too. Barr is using all weapons at the president’s disposal to seize the pen of the “winners” and rewrite history so as to flatter Trump (and Putin). Suppressing/undermining that SIC report (or its chief GOP author) could go a long way towards achieving that goal.

    • dude says:

      Trump’s Chief of Staff is also a Tar Heel. I don’t know what his relationship with fellow-Republican Burr is. Mark Meadows may be involved in either promoting or mitigating what’s going on.

  4. puzzled scottish person says:

    Does this mean that the showtrials won’t just be of democrats? That could turn really nasty.

    Or are they assuming Burr will go quietly into the good night?

  5. What says:

    “Even just the Roger Stone disclosures from his trial make it clear “collusion” happened, and that’s ignoring the ongoing Foreign Agent investigation involving Stone. And the Intelligence Committees have been briefed on the existence of — and possibly some details about — either that or other ongoing investigations.”

    What would change you mind regarding the collusion nonsense? Anything? Your adherence to the “collusion” theory borders on the religious. Even Mueller didn’t find “collusion,” yet you continue to spout this debunked theory.

    • Rayne says:

      What’s it going to take for you to get a fucking clue? “Collusion” — note the quote marks — isn’t a legal term but a description for what the Special Counsel’s office did find. The legal term is Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S., which couldn’t be charged because of DOJ’s internal regulations. See pages 1-2 of Volume II of the Special Counsel’s report.

      Look, we’re not going to rehash the entire Special Counsel’s investigation just for you. If you don’t like the conclusions here, find the exit. And if you’re going to stick around, get a more differentiated username than “What.”

    • P J Evans says:

      Mueller didn’t find “collusion” because it doesn’t exist in law. It’s “CONSPIRACY”, and he didn’t find enough evidence to charge it because PEOPLE DESTROYED EVIDENCE. He says so in the summary of his report, right at the beginning of it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Welcome to my living room. What would get me to “change my mind regarding the collusion nonsense” is some other explanation for the abundant evidence that Roger Stone, among others, went to great lengths to optimize the RUssian effort. That is, there is evidence there–which you appear unfamiliar with–that involves not religion, but facts. I would suggest those working so hard to ignore actual facts are the ones engaged in religion or perhaps cult.

    • Fran of the North says:

      Hey Ivan ,

      I bet you aren’t going into the office anymore eh? Petrograd is a bit of hot zone. Go ply your trade elsewhere comrade. We’re not buying your rope here.

  6. Rugger9 says:

    I think some of the answers will depend on who succeeds Burr, and if it is someone like Tom Cotton, watch out. I’d noted this a couple of posts back. The other marker is whether Sen. Loeffler gets investigated as well. If she is it is more likely that it’s a corruption issue (although I seem to recall she’s currently in 3rd-4th place in the primary and therefore expendable) otherwise it is political discipline.

    • MB says:

      The other day at the Senate hearing on covid, Loeffler was clearly trying to float the “blame China” narrative with her line of questioning. The level of strategery among some politicians who make staying in power a full-time job and giving as little time as necessary to keep up the appearance of legislating is astounding…

    • timbo says:

      Also Feinstein. Wouldn’t be surprised if she slipped up and told her husband about this…

  7. DBaker says:

    Blake’s Moustache on Twitter (must read for all Trump litigation analysis, including the House and Vance cases from the other day) concurs wholeheartedly with the point you make here. TrumpWorld is as much about the blackmail and who gets prosecuted, i.e. Parnas not Guliani to name one prominent example.

  8. ernesto1581 says:

    What, I say, WHAT is with all these deficientes tra tutti l’altre creature nauseabonde suddenly growing these stupid beards, anyway? Cruz, Paul, Burr, Trump Jr, Ryan…Is this supposed to signify what rough n’ tough dudes they are, ready and able to take down the republic at a moment’s notice, rather than just the usual bunch of ugly people in show business they really are…? (thanx & a tip o’ the hat to Paul Begala.)

    • P J Evans says:

      Maybe to show us how seriously they’re taking the stay-at-home orders they’re apparently not following, because they can’t shave themselves or get anyone in their family to cut their hair?

  9. vicks says:

    If you look at this as a version of the “investigating the investigators” defensive strategy Burr stepping down appears to be a “win”
    I would assume that whoever is on the short list to takeover Burr’s leadership position will be one of Trump’s “best people” and this report will never be released in a way it can be fairly evaluated.
    I’m not saying Burr isn’t guilty, but are we really supposed to believe that Burr and what’s her name are the exception? That everyone else that makes up the most shameless and greedy crew most of us have ever seen chose to grit their teeth while their fortunes tumbled?
    Perhaps even worse, they got the same information but chose Trump’s version instead?

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      ‘grit their teeth’? Hardly.

      Consider that a barrel of oil has dropped from about $60 down to $20 in five short months. Who needs high oil prices? The Oil Patch in the US, the Russians, and the Saudi’s.
      Trump needs a scapegoat, and Burr will fill that role for the day.

      Also consider that commercial property is being hit as people stay home due to COVID. Both the Kushner and Trump family fortunes are tied to commercial real estate.
      Trump will look for someone to destroy; he can’t save the commercial property market with chloroquine.

      So the oil oligarchs aren’t happy.
      And the commercial property moguls aren’t happy.
      Against this context of massive and mounting losses sits a GOP Senate Intel Chair who handed Trump (and Barr) his ass on a platter.

      I don’t think they are gritting their teeth. I think they are looking for someone to destroy in order to damage and divert the flow of information.
      They call this ‘winning’.
      So much ‘winning’.

      • Bob Estes says:

        Pretty sure that the Russians and Saudis are driving down oil prices to put American producers out of business. Energy independence isn’t good for business.

  10. viget says:

    I believe Marcy noted a while back that Burr is one of the “poorer” senators which is probably why he got caught. The really rich ones have off-shore funds that do this for them. Plus the fact that he’s not rich means that he isn’t wholly on some lobbyist’s take or an unregistered foreign agent like the rest of those traitors. Therefore, he is of no use to Trump and is expendable.

    Plus I think Barr/Trump and their puppet-masters really, really don’t want volume V to come out. I am sure all the good stuff is in there, since SSCI, unlike HPSCI, seemed to have done a real investigation.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah. He used to be. Turns out he has monetized things well since he decided to retire.

        • Marinela says:

          $174,000 a year is a lot of money. Can save, invest, to about a million by the time you retire.
          But not hundreds of million.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          “And yet Trump still goes after him.”
          Marcy suggested this above, and it has long been my foundational insight into Trump’s dynamic. He is no more “President of the United States” than he ever was a “business man.” He operates as a cult leader, which is to say as a con man. Any threat to his myth must be obliterated, in a ritual designed to terrorize all potential insubordination into despairing silence. It doesn’t matter if, like Richard Burr, you voted for his policies; the moment you stray you will fall.

  11. PeterS says:

    I have only contempt for Barr, and while it’s clear the DOJ has recently done the wrong thing for political reasons, I’d like to see a little more evidence before concluding that it’s now doing the right thing for political reasons.

    • FL Resister says:

      Bill Barr and Trump haven’t made any ethical decisions so one must conclude bad motives here.

  12. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy.
    Could this be Trump’s retaliation against Burr? Burr (Senate Intelligence Committee) confirmed last month Russia meddled in 2016 election to benefit Trump. Is Burr being silenced to protect Trump?

  13. e.a.f. says:

    He either isn’t towing the line on something or they want him gone so they can replace him with some one else, who wants to be a senator and is willing to pay to have the job> it could all be about the reports, but I doubt it there is usually something else going on.

  14. Alan Charbonneau says:

    Trump is really getting desperate, for evidence see his “Independence Day” commercial.
    If you can take it. (cameos by Pascarle and Hannity we’re particularly nauseating)

    I would not be surprised it this investigation was a political hit. I hate saying that because it sounds like something a conspiracy theorist would say, but after three years of this guy, I am starting to see conspiracies everywhere.

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