July 13, 2018

Warren, Wyden, Murray, Blumenthal Report Reveals Cohen Attempts to Seek Investments for Russian-Linked Columbus Nova, New Details on Cohen-Novartis Business Dealings

Senate investigation exposes Cohen's efforts to secure new investments on behalf of Columbus Nova, another client of Cohen's linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg; Contract documents show that Cohen's business arrangement with Novartis lasted six months longer than the company claimed

Link to report (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued a report revealing how Michael Cohen, the president's then-personal lawyer, was pressing Novartis' then-CEO to take up an investment opportunity that would benefit Russian-linked Columbus Nova.

The report also shows that Cohen's agreement with Novartis lasted six months longer than the company publicly stated. Novartis compiled a list of ideas on how to lower the cost of drugs and sent it to Cohen, who promised to pass it along to the Trump administration. Several of those proposals would later appear in Trump's drug pricing proposal released in May.

"Michael Cohen raked in millions selling access to the White House while secretly representing a drug company linked to a Russian oligarch," Warren said. "This stinks of corruption. These documents raise even more questions about Cohen's shady foreign ties and the pay-to-play operation he was running as President Trump's attorney."

"The sweetheart deals and backdoor promises documented in this report are a snapshot of Cohen's multi-million dollar side hustle as influencer-in-chief," Wyden said. "Cohen's secret push to enrich a firm connected to a sanctioned Russian oligarch only raises more questions about the deals he was working. 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. Many of the answers lie in key documents related to follow-the-money issues that Treasury refuses to turn over to the Finance Committee. It all comes down to one simple question: What are Donald Trump and his administration hiding?"

"The more we learn about the arrangement between Michael Cohen and Novartis, the more alarming it appears. The public was rightly concerned to learn President Trump's close associates are selling access to the Administration and getting million dollar contracts from drug companies," Murray said. "I am going to continue to demand transparency from the Trump Administration and the companies that are trying to influence it and shine a spotlight on deals like this that raise so many alarming ethical questions, because people across the country want to know that their public officials are working for them, not for big business, wealthy donors, or special interests."

"The Trump Administration has put a 'for sale' sign in the front yard of the White House," Blumenthal said. "This bipartisan report sheds further light on shameful covert payments made by a pharmaceutical company and foreign interests to buy influence and access to the President of the United States, using Michael Cohen and his shell companies as conduits. The American people are owed an honest explanation about who is paying for access to the Oval Office and profiting off weakening consumer protections and safeguards against corporate malfeasance by this grifting Administration."

The head of Columbus Nova, Andrew Intrater, reached out to Cohen directly to apprise him of an investment opportunity with Yamo Pharmaceuticals, according to a letter from Yamo received by Senate Finance Committee Minority staff. Intrater, through his companies, was a key investor in Yamo. After being informed of the opportunity with Yamo, Cohen took Yamo's pitch directly to Novartis. Novartis had been approached by Yamo previously and declined to invest in the company.  At Cohen's urging, Novartis' then-CEO agreed to personally revisit the investment decision with Yamo.

Contrary to the company's prior statements, documents show that Novartis' relationship with Cohen lasted until at least September 2017-six months longer than initially claimed. Multiple exchanges were shared on a variety of health policy matters during this time. After meeting personally with Trump on drug pricing in January 2017, Novartis compiled a list of ideas on how to lower the cost of drugs and sent it along to Cohen. Cohen, who was representing himself to Novartis as Trump's personal lawyer, said he would share the company's list with administration officials.

Novartis continued to pay Cohen his $1.2 million contract in full even after the company determined he would be unable to provide the "satisfactory performance" required by the agreement.

After initially signaling cooperation with the Finance Committee, Cohen declined to provide information about his communications with Novartis and the Trump administration to assist the Senators' investigation. Cohen is under federal investigation for bank and wire fraud as well as violating campaign finance laws.

Sens. Warren, Wyden, Murray and Blumenthal all sent separate letters to Novartis in May questioning the company's business dealings with Cohen. Wyden also asked that the Treasury Department provide the Finance Committee with all financial information related to suspicious activity reports on Cohen.

A link to the full report can be found here.

A link to supporting documents can be found here.