In February of 2020, before the public knew the full extent of the coming pandemic but after senators were secretly briefed about the threat, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Kentucky) wife bought stock in a company that manufactures an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19. Now, 16 months after the stock reporting deadline for the buy has passed, Paul has disclosed the purchase.
Under the Stock Act, lawmakers have 45 days to disclose a stock transaction after it’s made. Paul’s disclosure on Wednesday came incredibly late, raising suspicions, experts say, over the already questionable stock trade first reported by The Washington Post.
Paul’s wife bought stock in Gilead Sciences, the company that makes the antiviral drug remdesivir shortly before the public was made aware of the pandemic in March and before the stock market crashed in March. The purchase was relatively small, between $1,000 and $15,000, and a spokesperson for the senator said that she actually lost money on the stock.
“The senator ought to have an explanation for the trade and, more importantly, why it took him almost a year and a half to discover it from his wife,” James D. Cox, a Duke University law professor, told The Washington Post.
The Senate was embroiled in a stock trading investigation last year when three senators were suspected of insider trading after dumping huge amounts of stock following the private briefing on the pandemic. The Justice Department had conducted a short probe into the stock trades by Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California).
While the Justice Department ultimately found no evidence of illegal conduct, it raised questions over the ability of lawmakers to buy and sell stocks and the erosion of public trust that comes with such trades.
“It is absolutely wild that members of Congress are still allowed to buy and sell individual stock. It shouldn’t be legal,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter. “We’ve introduced legislation to end the practice, but as one can imagine it’s a very uphill battle to pass.”
The spokesperson for Paul told The Washington Post that the reason the disclosure came so late was because the senator had filed a statement but it hadn’t been transmitted. When he was made aware of this, he filed the disclosure along with his annual disclosure statement, which was submitted three months late.
Paul’s wife bought the Gilead stock on February 26, 2020 — two days after a World Health Organization (WHO) official said that the antiviral drug was the only drug at the time that “may have real efficacy” against COVID-19. The WHO in October reversed that position after more study on the drug.
Though the WHO’s statement on remdesivir was public, most Americans were not privy to the information made clear to senators in the private briefing on the pandemic in January. Experts say there could still have been information on the drug that Paul was told in that meeting.
“Not everything about the product was necessarily clear from existing announcements,” Joshua Mitts, a law professor at Columbia University, told The Washington Post. “There could have been information about interest that certain individuals within the administration may have had in the product, or that hospitals here in the U.S. were already loading up.”
The month after Paul’s wife bought stock in Gilead was busy for the senator. In March, Paul became a beacon of recklessness when it came to the virus, insisting on getting tested for COVID back when tests were still extremely limited and still going to the gym, lunches and regular Senate meetings. He announced that he tested positive on March 22, 2020, becoming the first senator to test positive for COVID-19.
Then, Paul became even more reckless, using his platform as a senator to spread disinformation about the virus and going out of his way to undermine the advice from public health experts.
He refused to wear a mask after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had spread guidance about doing so, claiming without evidence that people who have been infected with the virus can’t spread it.
Just on Wednesday, Paul got banned from YouTube for a video falsely claiming that masks don’t work in preventing the spread of COVID-19. He also said in June that, if an individual has already been infected with the virus, they didn’t need to get the vaccine, going against official recommendations from the CDC.