Federal investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller questioned pharmaceutical giant Novartis last year about its relationship with Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, the company said Wednesday.
In November, lawyers from Mueller’s office asked for information about the company’s relationship with Essential Consultants, a shell company created by Cohen.
“Novartis cooperated fully with the Special Counsel’s office and provided all the information requested,” Novartis spokeswoman Sofina Mirza-Reid said in a statement. “Novartis considers this matter closed as to itself and is not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.”
The acknowledgment by Novartis suggests that Cohen has been drawn into the special counsel’s ongoing probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. FBI agents in New York raided the Trump Organization lawyer's home and office last month following a "referral" from Mueller, but it was not known how closely he had scrutinized Cohen.
Novartis revealed its contact with Mueller’s office after the company was named in a document distributed by Michael Avenatti, a lawyer representing porn film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing to be released from a contract, inked weeks before Election Day, that paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged sexual relationship with Trump.
Cohen made the payment to Daniels through Essential Consultants, the same firm that was later hired by companies including Novartis, AT&T and Columbus Nova, a firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was sanctioned last month as punishment for the Kremlin's meddling in the U.S. election.
AT&T, Columbus Nova and Novartis confirmed that they had business relationships with Cohen after Avenatti’s document was released. AT&T declined to comment Wednesday on whether it had been contacted by Mueller.
“In February 2017, Novartis entered into a one year agreement with Essential Consultants shortly after the election of President Trump focused on US healthcare policy matters,” Novartis' Mirza-Reid said. “The terms were consistent with the market. The agreement expired in February 2018.”
“The engagement of Essential Consultants predated Vas Narasimhan becoming Novartis CEO. Dr. Narasimhan had no involvement whatsoever with this arrangement,” Mirza-Reid said.
Avenatti claimed the Cohen bank account was involved in transactions totaling more than $4.4 million between October 2016 and January 2018. Those transactions included $200,000 from AT&T and some $500,000 in deposits from Columbus Nova.
FBI agents searched Cohen's law office and Park Avenue apartment last month, seeking information on the payment to Daniels. Cohen was also reported to have negotiated a $1.6 million payment on behalf of GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy after a Playboy Playmate said Broidy had impregnated her.