“We complain that the Chinese government is opaque and obstructionist — and that’s true,” Sen. Ran Paul told The Post. “But we’re getting the same sort of difficulties from our government.”
Since COVID-19 emerged in early 2020, Paul has spearheaded a battle to hold America’s public health apparatus to account.
He’s also clashed repeatedly and passionately with recently-retired National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
A few questions have been central to their standoff: Did COVID-19 leak from a lab in Wuhan? And did Fauci and the American medical establishment help fund dangerous gain-of-function research that caused the pandemic?
Despite years-long insistence that the lab-leak theory was a dangerous and even racist conspiracy theory, more and more institutions are now coming out in favor of it.
Late last month, the Department of Energy joined the FBI in deeming a lab leak the likely origin of COVID-19.
For Paul, the conclusion is vindicating. “It just motivates me to try even harder,” he told The Post.
But he’s also frustrated. The senator said he knew the classified conclusion of the Energy Department’s investigation for about a month before it was leaked to the press in late February.
“Because it’s classified, then I can’t do my due diligence of oversight,” he explained. “I can’t announce it to the public. And so we end up relying on all the leaks to the media, which are illegal.”
Paul said too much crucial information still remains under lock and key, leaving the American people in the dark about COVID-19’s origins.
“The over-classification problem is stymying the investigation,” he added. “Our government has reams of classified material that all point towards the COVID virus originating in the lab in Wuhan.”
Despite these limitations, Paul is continuing to probe.
He told The Post he’s sent 28 letters to eight different governmental agencies to demand more information about NIH and HHS grants that may have funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology — but to no avail.
“I’ve gotten virtually zero information,” Paul said. “They’re not willing to tell someone who represents the state who they gave the money to.”
Newly released emails from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic show that Fauci ordered, edited and approved a February 2020 paper published in the Nature Medicine journal, which deemed the lab-leak theory null and was touted as definitive evidence that COVID-19 jumped naturally to humans from an animal.
Paul said the emails reveal that Dr. Fauci created “an orchestrated consensus” to cover his own tracks and to tarnish his opponents.
“If you look at the emails, [Fauci and other officials] will say that our goal is that this will emerge as the scientific consensus — and that you’re a conspiracy theorist if you argue that this virus might have come from a lab,” Paul said.
Now, his next battle with Fauci is getting to the bottom of whether the doctor receives royalties from vaccine manufacturers.
While members of congress like Paul have to divulge their income sources, a 1980s law protects public health officials like Fauci from having to do the same.
Paul is continuously pushing for royalty transparency, but said, “Dr. Fauci’s answer to me wasn’t really reaffirming, or really satisfactory.”
According to the senator, getting to the bottom of the pandemic’s origins is crucial for preventing another disaster.
“The biggest thing is to ascertain whether it came from the lab,” he said. “And we need to look at this type of research both in our country and around the world.”
Looking back, Paul added, public health officials destroyed the public’s trust in them.
“I do think that the understanding of what Dr. Fauci was doing and his intentions has changed over time,” he said. “I think in February or March of 2020, everyone felt like he was a well-intentioned government doctor who wanted to keep us safe.
“But I think what’s happened now is people have seen that he was a doctor who was trying to cover his tracks. He is a public health official who had funded dangerous research in China that in all likelihood led to the pandemic.”
The result has been tumbling institutional faith. As of 2022, only 29% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the public’s interest.
“I think it’s government dishonesty that has led to most of the distrust,” the senator said.
An avowed libertarian, Paul has consistently fought against strict lockdowns, mandates and restrictions across the country.
He holds out hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will be a cautionary tale that prevents future overreach.
“I think it will be more difficult for them the next time they try this, because the evidence is pretty much in. None of the things they did to slow down the spread of the disease worked,” Paul said. “In the end, everybody got COVID whether they stood on stickers six feet apart from each other or not.”
The key to stopping history from repeating itself? According to Paul, it’s up to citizens.
“People need to resist,” he said. “When the government tells you you can’t go to church, your government says you can’t go to the gym, your government says you can’t go to a restaurant or you can’t go to a hotel — we need to resist that.”