Dems say new emails show Cohen ‘selling access’ to White House
Senate Democrats said Friday that President Trump’s former longtime attorney Michael Cohen had a more extensive relationship with the drug company Novartis than previously reported and that Cohen was “selling a line of access” to the White House.
Democrats on two Senate committees released a report Friday detailing Cohen’s extended relationship with Novartis, which they called “longer and more detailed” than what Novartis had reported in a public statement.
Novartis previously acknowledged a $1.2 million agreement with Cohen last year. Cohen allegedly promised the company access to the Trump administration.
Novartis said it ended the relationship with Cohen in March 2017, but Democrats say new documents show communication continued until September.
“These documents indicate that Mr. Cohen and Mr. [Joe] Jimenez – who was still the Novartis CEO at the time – had at least four phone calls, and, between April and September 2017, exchanged multiple emails on substantive issues, including the Trump administration’s drug pricing proposals, Novartis’s potential investment in a small drug company backed by Columbus Nova, and with regard to opioid lawsuits,” according to the report.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who worked on the report, told ABC News that Cohen’s relationship with Novartis was evidence of the attorney’s efforts to capitalize on the ability to get companies and entities in contact with Trump administration officials.
“What he was selling was a line of access to the Trump administration,” Wyden said. “That would be how I would characterize it.”
“What troubles me is that it sure looks like what Novartis got out of this deal was a direct line of access to the White House for their priorities,” he added. “We still don’t know the kind of White House access Cohen was granting to undisclosed clients, or whether Cohen served as a foreign agent.”
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis sharply disputed that characterization in a statement to ABC, and claimed that Cohen merely provided “strategic advice” to Novartis and other clients during the early days of the Trump presidency.
“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.
The Democrats’ report comes after an employee of Novartis told the news site Stat in May that Cohen “promised access” to the president in his emails and discussions with the company.
“With a new administration coming in, basically, all the traditional contacts disappeared and they were all new players,” the employee said. “We were trying to find an inroad into the administration. Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.”
Cohen is currently under investigation for bank fraud and possible campaign finance violations. He has denied any wrongdoing, and has not been charged with a crime.
–Updated at 9:20 a.m.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.