President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had a more extensive relationship with pharmaceutical giant Novartis than previously realized, according to emails between the drug company and Cohen’s consulting firm, Essential Consultants LLC.
In a report released by Senate Democrats on Friday morning blasting Cohen for “selling access” to the White House, senate investigators revealed that they have obtained dozens of emails between Cohen and former Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez. These communications, shared exclusively with ABC News, shed new light on the services Cohen provided through Essential Consultants LLC, a shell company he formed shortly before Election Day.
It was revealed earlier this year that Novartis signed a $1.2 million contract with Cohen for insight into the Trump administration on pharmaceutical related issues. The company said it was immediately apparent that Cohen could not provide the assistance he claimed, but Novartis was stuck paying the full contracted fee.
But prior to terminating their contact with Cohen, a handful of communications took place:
Democrats say Cohen appeared to discuss drug pricing proposals with Jimenez after meetings between the administration and the pharmaceutical industry. In another, he appeared to encourage Novartis to consider investing in a pharmaceutical company tied to a firm linked to a Russian billionaire that Cohen also represented.
“What he was selling was a line of access to the Trump administration,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the Democrats who released the report, a copy of which can be read below. “That would be how I would characterize it."
The communications also reveal that, over several months, Cohen and Jimenez discussed significant issues such as federal drug pricing policy:
In June 2017, Jimenez, replying to a request from Cohen, sent an email containing a six-point plan for the Trump administration entitled “Drug Pricing Cost Initiatives. In their response to the senators, Novartis said Cohen told Jimenez at the time that a "friend with experience in the pharmaceutical industry" was preparing ideas for a discussion with Trump administration officials.
Cohen responded that “the information you provided was a great beginning. I am expecting to receive in a few days their version and will scan to you under privileged and confidential communication.”
Attorneys for Cohen insist that he never lobbied on behalf of Novartis, or any other firm, during his dealings as a consultant.
Novartis also maintains that nothing of substance transpired prior to its decision to break with Cohen.
However, Democrats remain unsure that no improprieties took place.
Democrats claim several of those points were similar to proposals included in a report Trump released in May 2018 outlining the administration’s priorities on addressing the cost of prescription drugs, but it is unclear whether they were drawn from the company’s six-point plan -- a list including cost-lowering initiatives Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies had advocated for publicly.
AT&T, which also contracted with Cohen's consulting firm, reportedly refused to turn over its communications with Cohen upon the Senate's request.