Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has not had a good 2018. The year has found him facing scrutiny over actions including the delivery of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels, covering an affair with the man who is now president. That initial area of concern has ballooned into much more, with Cohen facing a government criminal investigation into possible bank and campaign finance fraud.
Senate Democrats are adding to Cohen’s woes this week, claiming emails they’ve uncovered to reveal that he has lied about the extent of the White House access he sought to sell during 2017.
He’s previously been revealed to have been paid large sums of money by major corporations including the drug company Novartis for insider perspectives on and help in dealing with the Trump White House. Although the company has previously claimed their cooperation with Cohen to have ended in March 2017, Senate Democrats say the company was in contact with the lawyer through at least September of last year.
Topics of conversations between Cohen and Novartis CEO Joe Jiminez during those additional months reportedly included “the Trump administration’s drug pricing proposals, Novartis’s potential investment in a small drug company backed by Columbus Nova, and… opioid lawsuits.”
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) summed up the findings by saying:
‘What he was selling was a line of access to the Trump administration. 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.’
What Cohen was actually able to provide to Novartis was downplayed by Jiminez, who is no longer the company’s chief executive — although his claimed low view of the Trump lawyer in 2017 didn’t stop him from staying in contact after his company’s contract with Cohen ended, apparently.
Specifics of the post-March 2017 communication between Cohen and Jiminez include a claim from the Trump lawyer that he would pass on a drug pricing plan from Novartis to an unnamed friend who was getting ready for a talk with the White House.
What Cohen was or wasn’t able to do would weigh on whether or not he broke the law in not having registered as a lobbyist. If he was bluffing, it’s not an issue, but if he actually served as an intermediary between Novartis — and any other company — and the White House, then “that’s lobbying,” former Office of Congressional Ethics lawyer Bryson Morgan noted.
‘It’s the public’s right to know who is trying to influence the government, and through what means, and for what compensation. It’s an important mechanism for the public being able to hold their public officials accountable.’
Points that Novartis sent Cohen were somewhat reflected in a plan for prescription drug pricing released by the White House earlier this year, but at least some of the drug company’s plans had been advocated for publicly.
Whether Cohen’s work with Novartis plays majorly into the ongoing criminal investigation he’s facing remains to be seen. It remains an open question whether or not he will plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors as a part of that investigation.
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