- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

As President Trump prepares to give a major speech on lowering prescription drug prices, pharmaceutical giant Novartis said Wednesday it paid Trump lawyer Michael Cohen more than $1 million for health-care policy consulting work that he was “unable” to carry out.

Novartis said it paid Mr. Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, $100,000 per month beginning in February 2017, shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration. The contract lasted one year, and special counsel Robert Mueller has been probing the arrangement.

Novartis spokeswoman Sofina Mirza-Reid said the drug company hired Essential Consultants because it “believed that Michael 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 only one month after signing the deal, Novartis executives had their first meeting with Mr. Cohen, and “determined that Michael Cohen and Essentials Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated.”

The company kept on paying him anyway.

“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.

Novartis also said Wednesday that it was contacted last November “by lawyers from the special counsel’s office regarding the company’s agreement with Essential Consultants.” The company said it “cooperated fully … and provided all the information requested.”

Mr. Trump, who has said that pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder” by charging high prices for drugs, is slated to give a speech Friday on lowering drug prices.

AT&T also confirmed Tuesday that it paid Mr. Cohen in 2017 for “insights into understanding the new administration.” Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels who is suing Mr. Trump, asserted that AT&T paid Mr. Cohen and Essential Consultants $200,000 in installments.

At the time, AT&T was seeking government approval for its acquisition of Time Warner, parent company of CNN.

Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration,” AT&T said. “They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.”

Some Democrats in Congress said the payments are ripe for an investigation.

“I think that it ought to be a topic for the Judiciary Committee in connection with its continuing investigations, which I hope will not only review those payments, but also the other payments that may well have been used to influence the president of the United States using Michael Cohen and his shell company,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat. “It should be reviewed and investigated. It certainly will be by the special counsel.”

Alex Swoyer contributed to this article.

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