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Justice Department ordered to release more details of warrant in Burr stock trades investigation

A federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice to publicly release a significantly less-redacted version of the 2020 search warrant executed to seize North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr’s cellphone as part of an investigation into the Republican lawmaker’s stock trades at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Los Angeles Times, which sought the release of the document in court, had pushed for more information after the department released a heavily redacted search warrant and accompanying affidavit in June by order of the court. The affidavit provided few insights into the evidence the FBI had gathered and used to obtain permission from a federal judge to seize the phone.

Justice Department attorneys argued in court papers that much of the information should remain blacked out, in part because it includes “extensive details of interviews with private third-party witnesses whose role in the investigation is not publicly known.”

But Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on Monday ordered the Justice Department to file a new redacted version of the warrant by Sept. 5. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia declined to comment.

The Times first reported in May 2020 that federal agents, relying on a search warrant, had obtained Burr’s cellphone as part of their investigation into whether Burr, who is not running for reelection, illegally used information from congressional briefings about the coronavirus to sell $1.65 million in stock just before the pandemic hit.

Burr was never charged with any crimes connected to the trades. The Justice Department confirmed in its June court filings that it dropped that investigation in January 2021. A month later, The Times filed its lawsuit, arguing the records should be made public.

Several senators, including California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, were scrutinized by the Justice Department for potential violations of congressional insider trading rules for selling or purchasing stock at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Burr’s was the only case in which warrants were obtained. All investigations were closed without charges being filed.

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