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Sens. Diane Feinstein, Ron Johnson and Kelly Loeffler. Photos: Getty Images

Several U.S. senators have come under fire for making large stock trades while President Trump and other federal officials publicly downplayed the novel coronavirus threat, but after the lawmakers received a private briefing on the potential seriousness of COVID-19.

The state of play: The trades have sparked insider trading accusations, but it's impossible to know for sure without an investigation by the Justice Department or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On Jan. 24, senators reportedly were invited to a private briefing on COVID-19. Among those presenting were Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention.

  • Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) that same day sold shares in smart home product company Resideo Technologies, and over the next several weeks made another 28 trades, per her financial disclosures. Only two of the trades were purchases ⁠— including between $100,000 and $200,000 worth of shares in Citrix, a videoconferencing software maker whose stock price has risen as people are forced to work from home.
    • Loeffler has said her trades are made by an outside manager, and she doesn't learn of them until after the fact. It is impossible to know, sans investigation, if she relayed inside information to that outside manager.
  • Sen. Richard Burr (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold more than $1.72 million of stock on Feb. 13, including holdings in hotel chains Wyndham and Extended Stay America.
    • Two weeks later he told a private luncheon that coronavirus is "much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history." He did not make similar comments publicly.
    • Burr, who did not claim to use an outside advisor, has called for an probe into his trades by the Senate Ethics Committee.
  • Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) disclosed the sale of between $1.1 million and $5.5 million of stock in cancer drug company Allogene Therapeutics in February.
    • She says the trades were made by her husband, as her personal assets are in a blind trust, and that she did not attend the Jan. 24 meeting.
    • Allogene shares on Friday closed lower than on any other day since the company went public in 2018.
  • Sen. James Inhofe (R-Ok.) sold between $170,000 and $400,000 of stock on Jan. 27, including in Apple, Paypal and an investment firm with large commercial property holdings.
    • Inhofe says he didn't attend the Jan. 24 briefing and that the trades were made by an outside manager.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) on March 2 sold between $5 million and $25 million in Pacur, a plastics company he previously ran.
    • This one might not require investigation. Pacur isn't publicly traded, and Johnson sold his stock to a private equity firm that in mid-February announced plans to buy Pacur.

There was social media speculation on Friday that the SEC already filed charges against three of the senators, but an agency spokeswomen declined to confirm or deny.

The bottom line: It's improper to jump to conclusions. It's necessary for those with subpoena power to ensure that elected officials aren't illegally profiting from their positions.

Go deeper: Senate Intel chair sold up to $1.6 million in stock before market crash

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.