McConnell taps Rubio to lead Senate Intel panel after Burr steps down amid scandal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has chosen Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to temporarily lead the chamber’s intelligence committee after the previous chairman stepped down amid a cloud of controversy.

The decision comes days after Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) announced he would be leaving the leadership post while the FBI investigates allegations of insider trading.

Burr is among a handful of lawmakers under suspicion of dumping shares of stock in the days before the market’s coronavirus-related crash earlier this year. He is believed to have sold as much as $1.7 million worth of stock in February after legislators were briefed on the potential impact of the highly communicable virus.

“Expertise in foreign affairs”

In addition to trading stock, Burr has faced recent backlash for comments made to private donors in which he reportedly provided information about the developing pandemic before it had become public knowledge.

Federal agents served Barr with a warrant and seized his cellphone last week, and McConnell announced a short time later that the senator would be stepping down.

In his follow-up statement on Monday, McConnell called Rubio a “natural choice,” citing the latter’s “expertise in foreign affairs and national security matters” as his chief qualifications.

“I am glad to announce that Senator Marco Rubio has accepted my invitation to serve as Acting Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,” McConnell said.

“I look forward to continuing that tradition”

For his part, Rubio expressed gratitude for the vote of confidence.

“The committee has long been one that conducts its work seriously, and I look forward to continuing that tradition,” he said.

In a vote on Tuesday, the intelligence panel voted to approve U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) as the replacement for Richard Grenell, the acting director of national security. Ratcliffe’s confirmation must still be approved by the full Senate in order to become official.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, welcomed Rubio as the interim chairman, calling him “a great partner on intelligence and national security issues.”

Critics of the Trump administration have spent much of the president’s first term speculating about chaos in the West Wing and bemoaning a perceived dearth of Republican leadership. As the bipartisan support for McConnell’s latest committee appointment indicates, those concerns might have been overblown.

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