Ex-Novartis CEO pitched Michael Cohen on lower drug prices, Senate Dems say

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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, extensively communicated with pharmaceutical giant Novartis as the firm sought access to Trump administration officials in hopes of influencing healthcare policy on drug pricing, according to a report by Senate Democrats dated June 12.

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The report details specific calls and emails exchanged by Cohen and former Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez, who pitched Cohen on drug pricing proposals. Cohen, in turn, said he would forward the ideas to White House officials.

Some of the recommendations, such as a proposal to speed up approval of generic drugs, later appeared in the Trump administration’s “blueprint” for lowering drug prices. Cohen was also accused of pitching Novartis on a potential investment in a pharmaceutical company linked to Columbus Nova, a New York investment firm with ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who faces financial sanctions from the U.S government.

"The sweetheart deals and backdoor promises documented in this report are a snapshot of Cohen's multi-million dollar side hustle as influencer-in-chief," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) said in a statement.

Cohen’s association with Novartis through his firm “Essential Consultants” was first disclosed last May, when Michael Avenatti, lawyer to former porn star Stormy Daniels, tweeted documents alleging that Novartis, AT&T and other companies had hired him as a consultant. Novartis confirmed at the time that it paid Cohen $1.2 million after Trump’s election in a deal “focused on U.S. healthcare policy matters.”

Novartis said at the time that the agreement was for a one-year term. The new report from Senate Democrats, however, said the company’s association with Cohen lasted for six months longer than previously disclosed.

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“On May 11, 2018, Novartis issued a misleading public statement minimizing its relationship with Mr. Cohen,” the report said. “Novartis stated that, on March 1, 2017, after signing the agreement with Mr. Cohen and meeting with him one time, company officials determined he would not be able to provide the anticipated services and “decided not to engage with him further.”

“But documents provided by Novartis reveal that Mr. Cohen and then Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez had multiple additional communications over the next six months,” the report added.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told employees via a memo in May that “Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged. There is no other way to say it – AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake,” as reported by FOX Business.

Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, denied the report’s assertion that his client effectively sold access to White House officials. 

"Mr. Cohen, who never introduced anyone from Novartis to anyone in the administration or Congress, did not 'sell access.' As a consultant, he provided strategic advice to his client,” Davis said in a statement.

Novartis did not immediately respond to a request for comment by FOX Business.

The Senate report did not provide specific evidence that Cohen provided direct access to Trump.

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