May 14, 2018

Senators Demand Answers from AT&T and Novartis About Secret Payments to Trump Lawyer Cohen

Companies' Unusual Payments "Raise Obvious Questions About Corruption" and "Pay-for-Play"

Letter to AT&T (PDF)
Letter to Novartis (PDF)

Washington, DC - Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today led a letter questioning the CEOs of AT&T and Novartis about recent reports that their companies secretly sent President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen substantial payments through a shell company while both companies had significant business pending before the Trump Administration. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also signed the two letters. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who separately raised questions about the Novartis arrangement, signed the letter to AT&T.

"Given these ongoing and significant matters, the unusual series of the President's personal attorney raise obvious questions about corruption and whether" AT&T, Novartis, "Essential Consultants, and the Trump Administration were engaged in a pay-for-play operation," the senators wrote.

The senators' letters highlight reporting suggesting AT&T paid Cohen as much as $600,000 while the company had financial interest in the Department of Justice's (DOJ) decision to contest AT&T's proposed merger with Time Warner - payments AT&T's CEO now calls a "big mistake." Meanwhile, Novartis apparently had a single meeting with Cohen and decided that he could not provide the services needed - but then continued to pay him a total of $1.2 million. Both companies' payments were made secretly to a limited liability company that appears to have been established at least in part to pay an actress to remain silent about a sexual affair with the President.

Citing the serious corruption concerns raised by the payments, the senators submitted a series of questions to the CEOs, requesting information about how the contracts with Cohen were approved, the terms of the arrangements, if the companies requested any contacts between Cohen and President Trump, and whether the companies believed that any of the payments would go to entities benefiting President Trump or his family.

A PDF copy of the letter to AT&T is available here, and a copy of the letter to Novartis is available here.