2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is calling on financial regulatory agencies to investigate whether associates and attendees at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago illegally traded in defense company stocks or commodities after he gave them a heads up that he was planning something “big” in response to Iran’s killing of an American contractor in Iraq.
The Daily Beast previously reported that Trump told allies at his Palm Beach club that he had something “big” in the works to address Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region and that they would read about it “soon.” The president specifically mentioned to some of his associates at Mar-a-Lago that he’d been in contact with his senior national security and military advisors on possible plans to hit back, two sources told The Daily Beast.
He did not mention specific plans of attack or human targets for a military response, the sources noted. “He kept saying, ‘You’ll see,’” one of these club-goers said, describing a conversation with the president that occurred just days before the U.S. attack.
Just days later the U.S. launched a mission to assassinate Iran’s top military leader General Qassem Soleimani while driving near the Baghdad airport. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration decided to strike the Iranian general because he was planning “imminent” attacks against American interests. Those claims have since fallen apart, with the president himself tweeting that it “doesn't really matter” whether the threat was imminent or not.
Now, Senator Warren (D-MA) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to determine “whether there may have been any illegal trading in defense company stocks or commodities related to individuals’ advance knowledge,” according to the letter Warren sent to the agencies, which cites The Daily Beast’s reporting. Warren also asks the agencies for a briefing on the matter no later than Feb. 13.
“Individuals who were guests at President Trump’s resort may have obtained confidential market-moving information,” the letter says. “These private individuals ... would have had the opportunity to obtain significant profits simply by being guests or members at President Trump’s private resort.”
Warren’s letter notes that several contractor’s stock prices jumped following the assassination of Soleimani. Northrop Grumman stock prices increased by over 5 percent and Lockheed Martin’s stock prices increased by 3.6 percent, according to the letter.
Warren said The Daily Beast’s reporting about Trump’s conversations at Mar-a-Lago went beyond what U.S. officials said publicly prior to the strike, including threats against Tehran on Twitter.
And while Warren said her team has no way of knowing which individuals received information from President Trump in advance of the attack, if individuals had made securities or commodities trades based on that information, they could have violated the Insider Trading Sanctions Act of 1984.
That law bars individuals from purchasing or selling a security while in possession of material, nonpublic information. The civil penalties are ‘three times the amount of the profit gained or loss avoided’, according to the letter and criminal penalties can add up to $5 million or 20 years imprisonment, or both.