Senate Democrats on Friday slammed Michael Cohen for “selling access” to the White House, saying they’ve obtained dozens of emails that expose a deeper connection between the President’s former lawyer and the Swiss drug company Novartis.
In a newly released report, Democratic lawmakers accused Novartis of misleading the public about the extent of its relationship with Cohen and the services he provided them through Essential Consultants LLC, a shell company he established shortly before election day. It’s also the same company Cohen used to make payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in a bid to keep her quiet on her rumored affair with Trump.
In probing a $1.2 million payment to the former Trump lawyer, investigators uncovered Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez had extensive contact with Cohen regarding drug policy and the company’s access to the Presidential administration.
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In an email exchange following meetings between the administration and the pharmaceutical industry, Democrats claim Cohen appeared to reach out to Jimenez to discuss drug pricing proposals, according to ABC News. In another, the lawyer seems to urge Novartis to invest in a pharmaceutical company with ties to a firm linked to a Russian billionaire — who Cohen also represented.
Jimenez, replying to a request from Cohen in June 2017, sent over a six-point plan for the Trump administration called “Drug Pricing Cost Initiatives.” Democrats in their report allege several of the key topics in Jimenez’s email were similar to proposals included in Trump’s May 2018 report outlining the administration’s aim at addressing prescription drug cost.
Still, it’s not clear whether Novartis’ plan held any sway — the drug company is among many publicly advocating for cost-lowering initiatives.
Senate Democrats additionally noted the drug company “explicitly sought to hire Michael Cohen” because of his closeness to the President. In an early version of their agreement, Novartis specifically requested Cohen “provide access to key policy makers in the US Government” under the scope of his contract.
The line was later replaced with an offer “to provide consulting and advisory services.”
When the agreement was made public in May, current Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan said the company “made a mistake” in working with Cohen but maintained that all of their business had been above board in an email to staff.
Jimenez previously said executives held a lone meeting with Cohen before realizing their error. Under their contract thought, they were still obligated to pay out his $1.2 million through February 2018.
“Michael Cohen was somebody who was introduced to us, and he was unknown to us, but he was said to be somebody who could help,” Jimenez said in May. “After my team met with him individually, it was clear that he oversold his abilities.”
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen pushed back on allegations, say the former Trump insider never lobbied on behalf of Novartis or anything other client.
“Mr. Cohen never introduced anyone from Novartis to anyone in the administration or Congress, did not ‘sell access,’” Davis told ABC. “As a consultant he provided strategic advice to his client.”