The drug giant Novartis paid Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and longtime “fixer,” more than $1 million for health care policy consulting work — and then continued to pay him even after the company quickly realized Cohen couldn’t help them.
Cohen signed a one-year contract with Novartis in February 2017, at the cost of $100,000 a month, allegedly to advise the company on “how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. health-care policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act.”
The payments made by Novartis were to Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC — the same shell company that received Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg’s cash payment of $500,000 in the months after the 2016 presidential election.
According to CNBC, Novartis executives had their first meeting with Cohen just a month after the initial signing and quickly deemed that he “would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated.” But the company continued to pay him up to February 2018 because “the contract could unfortunately only be terminated for cause.”
That means Novartis paid Cohen $1.2 million for work he never did.
In a statement, Novartis added that it was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office about the payments.
“Novartis was contacted in November 2017 regarding the company’s agreement with Essential Consultants,” the company said. “Novartis cooperated fully with the Special Counsel’s officer 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.”
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) May 9, 2018
This latest revelation comes after it was reported Tuesday that Cohen’s shell company had been paid $500,000 by Vekselberg (through his company Columbus Nova LLC). A dossier released by Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti showed that Vekselberg — who is close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin — routed eight payments to Essential Consulting from Columbus Nova between January 2017 until at least August 2017.
Meanwhile, telecom giant AT&T was also revealed to have paid Cohen’s shell company $200,000, again with no visible action.
“Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration,” AT&T said in a statement. “They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.”
All of these payments were made to a company that has no website or known employees, that was previously described as a “real-estate consulting company,” and that was only set up in October 2016. Crucially, it was the same shell company Cohen used to make a $130,000 payment to Daniels, an adult film actress, and which, according to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, might have been used to pay off other women for Trump “if necessary.”