GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida will become the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr stepped down from the position last week amid an FBI investigation into his stock trades, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday.
Rubio will step into the role beginning on Tuesday, when the Intelligence Committee is expected to vote on advancing the nomination of GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe to be the next director of national intelligence.
In a statement announcing the move, McConnell said he appreciated Rubio’s “commitment to lead on all these fronts during this temporary assignment — to help ensure the intelligence community stays ahead of our adversaries, out of politics, and out of the press.”
Burr stepped aside last week as an FBI investigation ramped up into his sale of up to $1.7 million in stocks on a single day in February before the market downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The FBI issued search warrants last week for Burr’s Senate cell phone and Apple iCloud account, and Burr announced the following day he would step down in order to avoid being a distraction to the committee.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is in the final stages of a three-year, bipartisan investigation into Russian election interference that has at times roiled President Donald Trump and his allies, including when Burr issued a subpoena for Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., last year.
Rubio has been a supporter of the investigation and Burr’s role leading it throughout the duration of the probe.
“I am grateful to Leader McConnell for his confidence in me to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee during Senator Burr’s absence from the Chairmanship,” Rubio said in a statement. “The Committee has long been one that conducts its work seriously, and I look forward to continuing that tradition.”
Before he stepped down Friday, Burr sent the committee’s fifth and final volume of its Russia investigation to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for declassification. The final chapter of the committee’s report deals with its counterintelligence investigation, which examined, among other things, contacts between members of Trump’s team and Russian officials.
The committee’s investigation has put it at odds with the White House already. The last volume affirmed the intelligence community’s assessment released in 2017 that Russia meddled in the election and tried to help Trump win, a conclusion the President has repeatedly refused to accept, and a key reason Trump is so distrustful of the intelligence community.
At his confirmation hearing, Ratcliffe agreed to Burr’s request that ODNI “expeditiously” work to declassify the final report so it could be released.
“In addition to submitting the full, classified report, and in order to help facilitate the Intelligence Community’s review, we have also submitted what we assess to be a properly redacted, unclassified version of the report, totaling nearly 1,000 pages,” said Burr, who will remain on the Intelligence Committee after stepping down as chairman.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel, praised Rubio in a statement on Monday. “Senator Rubio has been a great partner on intelligence and national security issues and I look forward to working with him in his new role as acting chairman,” Warner said.
Rubio currently is chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, but he said last week he would be willing to move into the Intelligence role. Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, was next in line in seniority, but Risch already chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.