Novartis and Trump Attorney Michael Cohen Had Deeper Relationship Than Disclosed: Report
Novartis and Michael Cohen, attorney to President Donald Trump, had a much deeper relationship than has been previously disclosed and was selling access to the White House, a new report issued by Senate Democrats alleges.
The report called “White House Access for Sale: Michael Cohen, Novartis and the bid to sell access to the Trump administration” was released this morning. The report accused Novartis of misleading the public about its relationship with Cohen. According to the Senate report, documents provided to the Senate by Novartis show that Cohen and former Novartis Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez “had multiple additional communications.” Those additional communications are beyond what the company initially said about its relationship with Cohen. The Senate report takes a deep look at the relationship between Cohen and the company, specifically his relationship with its former CEO.
Novartis provided the Senators with documents reflecting the company’s communication with Cohen, the report said, but “declined to provide other documents requested by the Senators, including any documents reflecting internal communications regarding Mr. Cohen and his role with the company.”
The Senate report said that documents show Cohen and Jimenez had at least four telephone calls between April and September 2017 and exchanged multiple emails on substantive interviews, “including the Trump administration’s drug pricing proposals, Novartis’ potential investment in a small drug company backed by Columbus Nova and with regard to the opioid lawsuits.”
That announcement is in direct contrast to how Novartis painted its relationship with Cohen and his firm, Essential Consultants. In May it was revealed that Novartis paid Cohen, who was known as Trump’s “fixer,” $1.2 million for consulting services. The company entered into a deal with Cohen in February 2017 for one-year of consulting work – what has largely been viewed as an unsanctioned lobbying deal. In May Novartis said it believed Cohen could advise the company on how the Trump administration could approach health care policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act. However, Novartis said that after its initial meeting with Cohen the company determined that the New York attorney would be “unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to U.S. healthcare policy matters.”
Cohen is the same attorney who reportedly paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels as alleged hush money regarding an alleged affair with Trump. Cohen is under investigation for fraud and possible campaign finance violations. He has not yet been charged.
The Senate report said that Novartis hired Cohen to provide it with access to key policymakers in the Trump administration. The Swiss pharma giant provided Cohen with drug pricing recommendations for “discussion with… Trump administration,” the report said.
This morning Novartis said it disagrees with the conclusion of the Senate report.
“As the documents we produced show, Novartis had one and only meeting with Mr. Cohen on March 1, 2017, and then concluded he was not able to provide the substantive consulting advice and insight for which he was hired. We never asked Mr. Cohen to perform any services on our behalf after March 1, nor did he perform any,” Novartis said in the statement.
The company acknowledged the emails between Cohen and Jimenez but said those were initiated by Cohen. The company said Cohen was the one who asked Jimenez for ideas on how to lower drug prices, to which Jimenez provided him with a “list of well-known ideas for lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals.”
“As we have already acknowledged, Novartis made a mistake in entering into the contract with Michael Cohen. And in hindsight – and certainly knowing everything we know now – we should have tried to terminate the contract with Mr. Cohen regardless of our views at the time of its legal enforceability,” Novartis said.
Shares of Novartis are slightly down in morning trading. The stock is trading at $78.66 as of 10:01 a.m.