Documents show pharmaceutical giant paid $400K to Trump lawyer's shell company

Blanche Robertson
May 10, 2018

U.S. communications giant AT&T confirmed on Tuesday evening that it paid President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for "insights into understanding the new administration".

The revelation also drew attention to another potential line of inquiry in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump's campaign.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson arrives in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York Jan. 12, for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump.

AT&T hired Cohen when it was looking for a way to understand the new administration after seeing him on television doing interviews to advocate for Trump, the source said.

The engagement of Essential Consultants predated Vas Narasimhan becoming Novartis CEO and he was in no way involved with this agreement.

The Avenatti memo alleges the company paid Cohen $399,920 in late 2017 and early 2018 in four payments - each amounting to $99,980.

NBC News is also reporting, per a senior official at Novartis, that Cohen was "promising access" to the Trump White House.

News of payments AT&T made to Cohen's firm surfaced late Tuesday when Michael Avenatti, who is representing Daniels, shared on Twitter an executive summary of payments made to an account that was used to pay Daniels.

Lawyer Michael Avenatti also said hundreds of thousands of dollars streamed into Cohen's account from companies, including pharmaceutical giant Novartis, AT&T and Korea Aerospace, with USA government business interests.

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AT&T confirmed the payments to CNBC and the Wall Street Journal.

Columbus Nova was linked to Putin-connected Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg by way of his cousin, Andrew Intrater, and while Columbus Nova confirmed a Cohen hire it denied Vekselberg's involvement.

Perhaps the most notable payment to Essential Consultants was $500,000 from Columbus Nova, a USA -based affiliate of a company controlled by a Russian oligarch, Victor Vekselberg, according to the documents released by Avenatti. The affiliate, NY investment firm Columbus Nova, confirmed the payment, saying it was for consulting on investments and other matters, but denied any involvement by Vekselberg.

According to @MichaelAvenatti, Novartis paid $399k to Michael Cohen's consulting firm. Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti first reported these payments Tuesday.

It conceded that it gave Essential Consultants, a shell company set up by Mr Cohen, $100,000 a month for a year from February last year, in payments totalling $1.2 million.

Avenatti declined to comment on the probe, and Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to Avenatti's document, Cohen used the same firm to pay out Daniels.

Novartis said it was contacted by Mueller's office in November over its dealings with Cohen's firm. As the contract unfortunately could only be terminated for cause, payments continued to be made until the contract expired by its own terms in February 2018. It's not like Michael Cohen is a common name or anything.

Novartis first met with Mr. Cohen in March 2017.

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