Tucker Carlson made a big show of looking like he was pressing Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on her stock transactions suspiciously timed to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. But he allowed her to avoid the most important questions.
Loeffler’s stock trades came to light after ProPublica reported that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) had inside knowledge of how bad the coronavirus pandemic would be, assured the public otherwise, then dumped about a million dollars worth of stock, much of it in the now-struggling hospitality sector, shortly before the market crashed. The Daily Beast reported that Loeffler sold more than a million dollars of stock the same day “her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus.”
Loeffler repeatedly told Carlson that all her stocks are managed by a financial manager who sells them for her. But she said nothing about holding them in a blind trust nor did she say that she had no input into her financial manager’s decision.
Nevertheless, Carlson simultaneously let her skate on questions of input, signaled to viewers she had done nothing wrong and grandstanded about Burr as the real wrongdoer.
CARLSON: You’ve been very clear – unlike Senator Burr, as I said, who hasn’t really explained how this happened, though I think it’s pretty evident – you said right away I didn’t know this happened, I had nothing to do with it, I learned on February 16. So can you tell us tonight who specifically made this decision to sell these equities and why do you think they made that decision?
Rather than answer the question directly, Loeffler talked about how she “spent time with lawyers making sure I understood not only FEC requirements around being in the Senate” but also “spent time making sure I understood the Stock Act and the rules under the Senate Ethics Committee for how we perform our financial transactions.”
Carlson nodded and said, “right.”
Loeffler said she decided to have “a third party person that was – and a set of advisors that were fully charged and able to make these transactions on my own, that I did not have to be involved in any of the decision making around these financial transactions and that worked very well in the private sector. It kept us from having to have concerns around insider trading and that’s what I maintained in the Senate and that has allowed me to be able to work hard for the American people and focus on the things that I came here to Washington to do.”
Putting aside the possible Freudian slip of Loeffler saying she was able to make transactions on her “own,” rather than someone acting on her behalf, her statement that she “did not have to be involved in any of the decision making” is a far cry from “I was not involved.”
It's quite possible Loeffler meant she had no involvement. But you'd think that a guy really trying to get to the bottom of the situation would want to clarify that. Instead, Carlson said, "Right."
Carlson went on to ask, “Who specifically made that decision for you and on what basis?” He did not ask why Loeffler had not put her equities into a blind trust (as Senators Dianne Feinstein, James Inhofe and Ron Johnson did). Given that Loeffler also sits on the Senate subcommittee that oversees futures markets, this would seem an especially pertinent question.
And really, the question is not who made the decision but what, if any, input Loeffler had in it. Carlson is an admitted “extraordinarly loaded” trust-fund baby who surely has some kind of investment portfolio, so there’s zero chance he doesn’t know that just because a manager or financial adviser is empowered to trade on a client’s behalf does not mean there is no input from the client nor discussion between the two.
Again, Loeffler did not say she had nothing to do with the transactions. She said her financial advisers “are charged with conducting trades in our portfolios which we don’t have a say over.” She said she is “informed only after those trades are made. I have nothing in terms of say in what buys and sells are executed, what the timing is and I’m only advised after it happens, almost concurrent with the public reporting that we do here.
This seems like parsed language again. Having no say “in terms of” “what buys and sells are executed” is not “no say at all.” Did Loeffler call up her adviser and say something to the effect of, “There’s going to be a pandemic, get my portfolio ready?”
Carlson didn’t ask. “Right. OK. That makes sense,” he replied.
Carlson did point out that she knew her adviser was “selling a lot of equities.” And that she put out a video afterward, on March 10, touting the strong economy and praising Trump’s “fantastic job making sure that we’re in the best position to manage through this situation.” Carlson did not mention that she also deliberately downplayed the severity of the pandemic as a Democratic hoax: “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted on Feb. 28, after she reported her stock sales, according to The Daily Beast.
Did Loeffler think that maybe she should not have said the economy was fine, Carlson asked. “It’s not fine, obviously, just by your portfolio sheet you know that, right?”
Loeffler waffled again. “This situation has dramatically changed in the space of three months. I think none of us could have predicted where we would be today.”
Carlson let Loeffler's disingenuousness go unquestioned.
Loeffler sounded a bit defensive as she reiterated that she’s not involved “in stock transactions.” She also suggested she had seen no warning sign when she learned of the stock sales – but she didn’t explicitly say that: “Tucker, this is the kind of normal course for managing portfolios. Some months you have buys and sells, some months you have buys, some months you have sells. I trust the professionals that manage our portfolio. I don’t get involved there. I don’t have a say, I don’t want to have a say, I want to focus on my work for Georgians. We should be talking about coronavirus right now.”
With all due respect, it’s a bit hard to swallow the idea that Loeffler or maybe especially Loeffler – thought nothing of stock sales of over a million dollars. According to The Daily Beast, Loeffler, the wealthiest member of Congress, is married to the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.
Yet rather than press Loeffler on any of the questions she had begged, Carlson turned his fire on Sen. Richard Burr and began pushing her to opine on whether he should resign or be indicted. It’s a ridiculous question to ask Loeffler, but makes a lot of sense for someone looking to brand himself as a heroic truth-teller by picking on someone who’s no risk to you. Unlike Burr, who is retiring from the Senate and is already a Carlson target, Loeffler faces a special election in November. Carlson’s question also had the secondary benefit of suggesting that Loeffler is a valid judge of ethics on the matter.
Not surprisingly, Loeffler did not want to attack Burr. She applauded Burr’s willingness to have the Senate Ethics Committee look into his transactions. But Carlson spent more than two minutes trying. He concluded by saying, “It doesn’t help anybody to sort of point fingers retroactively but you want to think that your leaders are putting your interests before theirs."
Carlson concluded by asking, “I mean, what message would that send to the country” if Burr keeps his Senate seat? Probably the message as Trump using his office to self-deal from Day One. Maybe you should look into that, Tucker.
Meanwhile, you can watch Carlson fail to get to the bottom of Loeffler’s stock sales below, from the March 20, 2022 Tucker Carlson Tonight.