Yesterday, Michael Avenatti said that he had found payments totaling $400,000 made from the multinational pharmaceutical giant Novartis to Michael Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC—the same company he used to pay Avenatti’s client, Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in hush money. Apparently, that was only the tip of the iceberg.
STAT News reports that shortly after the inauguration, Cohen reached out to then-Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez “promising help gaining access to Trump and influential officials in the new administration.” Then, the company reportedly signed Cohen to a one-year, $1.2 million contract in February of 2017. STAT’s source, identified only as a Novartis employee “familiar with the matter,” described the deal as the company hoping Cohen could help it through issues such as the ACA, tax reform, and “navigating reimbursement challenges for medicines.”
“ We were trying to find an inroad into the administration. Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him,” the employee told STAT. “It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.” You don’t say!
Apparently, the meeting did not go well.
In March 2017, a group of Novartis employees, mostly from the government affairs and lobbying teams, met with Cohen in New York to discuss specific issues and strategies. But the meeting was a disappointment, the insider explained, and the Novartis squad left with the impression that Cohen and Essential Consultants — the firm controlled by Cohen that Novartis was making payments to — may not be able to deliver.
“At first, it all sounded impressive, but toward the end of the meeting, everyone realized this was a probably a slippery slope to engage him. So they decided not to really engage Cohen for any activities after that,” the employee continued. Rather than attempt to cancel the contract, the company allowed it to lapse early in 2018 and not run the risk of ticking off the president. “It might have caused anger,” this person said.
You read that right: Novartis says they paid Cohen $100,000 a month for nothing because they were scared of pissing off the president.
In a statement on its website, the company said that officials at the company had been contacted by Robert Mueller’s office about its payments to Cohen.
“Novartis was contacted in November 2017 regarding the company’s agreement with Essential Consultants. Novartis cooperated fully with the Special Counsel’s office and provided all the information requested,” the statement says. “Novartis considers this matter closed as to itself and is not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.”
Earlier this year, Cohen reportedly asked new Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan, who succeeded Jimenez last September, if the company would renew the contract, and Narasimhan declined. “This episode was clearly a mistake,” a Novartis spokesman told STAT.