- Drug giant Novartis reveals it paid Trump lawyer Michael Cohen $1.2 million for health-care policy consulting work that he proved "unable" to do.
- Cohen was originally contracted to consult with Novartis on health-care policy issues, including ones related to Obamacare.
- Novartis also says it has talked to investigators from special counsel Robert Mueller's team about the payments.
The company also said it has been questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller's team about the payments to Cohen.
NBC News reported later Wednesday that a senior Novartis official said that Cohen reached out shortly after Trump's election "promising access" to the new administration.
Novartis said it signed a one-year contract with Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants, for $100,000 per month in February 2017, shortly after Trump was inaugurated as president.
Novartis said it believed Cohen "could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. health-care policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act."
But just a month after signing the deal, Novartis executives had their first meeting with Cohen, and afterward "determined that Michael Cohen and Essentials Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated."
But Novartis kept paying Cohen.
"As the contract, unfortunately, could only be terminated for cause, payments continued to be made until the contract expired by its own terms in February 2018," Novartis said.
That means that Cohen was paid up to $1.2 million for his work.
On Tuesday, Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, said investigators for his law firm had found that Novartis had paid Cohen's shell company nearly $400,000 in four installments last year.
Avenatti said that AT&T paid $200,000 to Essential Consultants in four installments of $50,000 each per month. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that a source had said Cohen was actually paid more than that because Essential Consultants had a year-long contract with AT&T.
If Cohen was paid for the full year by AT&T at a rate of $50,000 per month, he would have received $600,000.
AT&T on Wednesday declined to reveal when asked by CNBC how much it had actually paid Cohen under the contract, which it said the company entered into because it wanted "insights" on the Trump administration.
Essential Consultants was created in October 2016, on the eve of the presidential election. Shortly after its creation, Essential Consultants was used to pay Daniels $130,000, Cohen has admitted.
Daniels said the money was in exchange for her agreement to not talk to others about a 2006 affair she claims to have had with Trump. The White House has denied the president had sex with the adult film actress.
Novartis also said it was contacted by Mueller's team last November, and was asked about the deal with Cohen. Novartis said it cooperated with those queries "and provided all the information requested."
Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible collusion by the Trump campaign in that interference.
Cohen is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for issues related to his business dealings. The payment to Daniels is among the areas being eyed by investigators in that probe.
Here is the full statement from Novartis on Wednesday:
In February 2017, shortly after the election of President Trump, Novartis entered into a one year agreement with Essential Consultants. With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act. The agreement was for a term of one year, and paid Essential Consultants 100,000 USD per month. In March 2017, Novartis had its first meeting with Michael Cohen under this agreement. Following this initial meeting, Novartis determined that Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to US healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further. As the contract unfortunately could only be terminated for cause, payments continued to be made until the contract expired by its own terms in February 2018.
The engagement of Essential Consultants predated Vas Narasimhan becoming Novartis CEO and he was in no way involved with this agreement. Contrary to recent media reports, this agreement was also in no way related to the group dinner Dr. Narasimhan had at the World Economic Forum in Davos with President Trump and 15 Europe based industry leaders. Suggestions to the contrary clearly misrepresent the facts and can only be intended to further personal or political agendas as to which Novartis should not be a part.
In terms of the Special Counsel's office, 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. Novartis considers this matter closed as to itself and is not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.