A powerful Democratic member of Congress sold thousands of dollars in stocks after the House committee on which she serves was briefed on the coronavirus in mid-February, according to a report from Breitbart.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) is a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and is currently the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which is singularly focused on helping Democrats gain and maintain majority control in the House of Representatives.
Just days after House members received a briefing that included mention of the coronavirus, Bustos sold stocks valued between $15,001 to $50,000 for at least one major corporation that suffered an extensive decline in value a short time later, Breitbart reported.
According to a “Periodic Transaction Report” filed by Bustos in accordance with House rules, the congresswoman sold more than $50,000 worth of shares of Comcast, Target, and Walt Disney. She appeared to purchase at least some or all of the Target stock back during the same period.
Breitbart noted the questionable timing of the stock sales, not just because they came in between the classified briefing and the eventual market crash, but also because at the time those sales were made the market was rising.
The Disney stock, in particular, was reportedly near a five-year high in value just before Bustos sold her shares. Just a couple weeks later, it plummeted to lows not seen since the aftermath of the 2009 recession due to the economic shutdowns imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Feb. 7 briefing
It’s unclear whether Bustos was actually in attendance at the classified briefing on Feb. 7. The congresswoman’s office declined to respond to a request for comment from Breitbart.
However, vote records show that Bustos was in Washington D.C. at the time and she had issued statements that, while not directly mentioning the impending pandemic, did criticize the Trump administration for other things that were reportedly covered in the briefing, according to Breitbart.
The briefing itself was delivered separately to the Senate and House Appropriations Committee, on which Bustos serves. Administration officials from the State Department and USAID discussed the president’s proposed budget for 2021 and what the administration was doing in terms of combatting global health threats like the coronavirus, which was already ravaging China and some European nations at that time.
Furthermore, Breitbart notes that it is highly likely that the coronavirus pandemic was a topic of discussion in the briefing given the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had just issued a statement that morning about what the Trump administration was doing to help other nations battle the viral contagion.
Questions need to be answered
It is unknown at this time whether Bustos used the information received in the briefing to inform her decision to sell certain stocks. It is possible those sales were made automatically based on certain trigger points, or could have made by a third-party broker or “blind trust” on her behalf, without any input.
That said, there are some questions that probably ought to be answered by the congresswoman to determine if all of this is a mere coincidence or if she engaged in prohibited insider trading. Several senators have also drawn scrutiny for selling stock after being briefed on the emerging pandemic.