Rubio named to lead Senate Intel Committee

Washington (AFP) –


Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a strong critic of China and Cuba, was named Monday to chair the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee while previous head Richard Burr is investigated in an insider trading scandal.

"The senior senator for Florida is a talented and experienced Senate leader with expertise in foreign affairs and national security matters," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in announcing the temporary appointment.

"On subjects ranging from China and Russia to Iran and North Korea to tyranny and unrest in our own hemisphere, Senator Rubio has been on the case for years."

Rubio, 48, has been a senator since 2011 and was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

The appointment puts him an elite group of Capitol Hill legislators known as the Gang of Eight who receive regular highly classified briefings on threats to the country and other intelligence issues.

He replaces Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who stepped down temporarily last Thursday after the FBI seized his cellphone in a probe of alleged insider stock trading tied to the coronavirus pandemic.

Burr is under investigation over whether he used his access to highly classified intelligence to sell stocks in February -- before the coronavirus struck the United States, and while Americans were being told the virus's threat was low.