Novartis paid $1.2m to Trump lawyer for policy insights

Novartis has said it paid $1.2 million in consultancy fees to a firm run by Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, who offered insight into the president’s plans for healthcare reform.

The Swiss pharma has bizarrely become embroiled in the scandal surrounding the actions of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and whether the president attempted to cover up an alleged affair with the former porn star Stormy Daniels in 2006.

Novartis added that it has also been contacted by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate links between Trump and the Russian government.

Daniels is suing Trump over a nondisclosure agreement she signed following a payment of $130,000 from Cohen just before the 2016 election – and her lawyer has made further public allegations about Cohen’s actions as a result.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told NBC that Novartis was among several firms that paid large sums of money to a company controlled by Cohen, for information about the president’s policy ideas.

The other companies that allegedly paid Essential Consultants included Columbus, a US-based firm with ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, the communicati1ons firm AT&T, and Korea Aerospace industries.

Avenatti did not reveal the sources of the information, but NBC news said it had seen financial documents that appeared to corroborate his account.

Novartis has confirmed this saying in a statement that it had entered a one-year agreement of $100,000 per month with Cohen’s firm, Essential Consultants in February 2017, shortly after Trump took office.

It said: “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.”

But Novartis said that following a meeting in March 2017 it “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 could not be terminated, payments continued until February 2018 when it expired.

Novartis stressed that the contract with Essential Consultants predated Vas Narasimhan becoming the company’s CEO, and said that the agreement was unrelated to a group dinner Narasimhan had with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The pharma company said special counsel Robert Mueller, had also contacted it regarding its contract with Essential Consultants in November last year.

In the statement Novartis said that it “cooperated fully with the Special Counsel’s office and provided all the information requested.”

Novartis said it considers the matter closed and is “not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.”

Cohen has reportedly said that Avenatti’s story is “inaccurate”.






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