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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Staff

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was one of several senators who came under fire last week after disclosing that they had sold large amounts of stock just before large swaths of the American economy shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The big picture: Many of Johnson's colleagues should indeed be scrutinized by the SEC and/or the Department of Justice, but Johnson himself hasn't done anything worthy of investigation.

The backdrop: Johnson's job before becoming a U.S. senator was CEO of Pacur, an Oshkosh, Wis.-based plastic sheeting manufacturer that had been founded by his brother-in-law under a different name (and with a different primary product).

  • The pair sold Pacur in 1986 but Johnson remained an employee. In 1997 he bought the company back.
  • Johnson was elected to the Senate in 2010.
  • A source says that Pacur began seeking to sell in early 2019, hiring an investment bank to launch an auction process that would result in bids from multiple private equity firms and strategics.
  • Over the holidays it picked an offer from Gryphon Investors. Papers were formally signed in early January with March 1 set as the closing date.
  • Gryphon's purchase of a majority stake always included Johnson's entire remaining position, which the source says was 5%. It bought the rest of its shares from other Johnson family members, who rolled over some of their stock into a minority stake.

The bottom line: This was a vanilla private equity deal that was negotiated before almost anyone had heard of coronavirus. Johnson, who has said several wrong-headed things about the pandemic, didn't trade on insider information.

Go deeper: Trump signals an economic pivot on coronavirus shutdowns

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”