Cohen: Novartis wanted access to the president

Feb. 27, 2019

In a bombshell testimony before Congress, President Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen described the details of a deal he made with Novartis, which wanted him to lobby for the company and provide access to the White House.

Swiss-based Novartis retained Cohen’s services as a consultant in 2017 for $1.2 million. The pharma giant later said that the company’s motivation was to gain insights into Trump’s plans for healthcare policies. But Cohen’s testimony this week characterized the contract differently.

“Novartis sent me their contract, which stated specifically that they wanted me to lobby,” Cohen told lawmakers in an admission that one Congressman said could mean that Cohen violated lobbying laws. “That they wanted me to provide access to the government, including the president.” Cohen said he declined to lobby for the company or do government relations work. 

Novartis’s ex-CEO, Joe Jimenez, had also said that the company met with Cohen once and then decided that his consulting advice would not be valuable. Novartis nevertheless paid the rest of Cohen’s fees under the original deal, despite supposedly ending the arrangement.

Cohen, however, testified that he talked to Novartis representatives six times. A report by Senate Democrats last year also provided evidence that Jimenez and Cohen spoke four times about Trump’s drug pricing proposals, Novartis’s potential investment in a startup and opioid lawsuits.

Novartis later said that its contract with Cohen was a mistake, and the company has since tried to distance itself from the deal.

Read the full Reuters report.