politics

Treasury Department Hasn't Responded to Cohen Probe Request

Updated on
  • Novartis has provided responses, Democratic Senator Wyden says
  • Trump lawyer Cohen signaled cooperation with investigation

Michael Cohen

Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

The U.S. Treasury Department has refused to respond to Senator Ron Wyden’s request for financial details related to payments that Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG made to Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Democratic lawmaker said.

Novartis is cooperating fully and provided “substantial” responses to the letter Wyden sent the company’s chief executive last month as part of a Senate Finance Committee review, according to an email from the Oregon senator’s office Wednesday. The probe is led by Democrats, and would require active participation by Republicans to become formal.

While Cohen has also signaled he will cooperate, the Trump administration “continues to be radio silent,” the spokeswoman said.

The probe follows revelations last month that Novartis paid $1.2 million to Cohen’s firm under a one-year agreement beginning in February 2017 that was aimed at gaining insight into the administration’s health-care policy. Novartis’s new CEO Vas Narasimhan has been grappling with fallout over the contract, which drew the drugmaker into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Wyden asked Narasimhan to explain what the pharma giant was hoping to achieve with its payments to the firm, Essential Consultants LLC. At the time, Novartis was seeking approval and negotiating a payment deal with the U.S. government for a cancer drug called Kymriah that has a list price of $475,000, the senator noted in the letter. Wyden is the ranking member on the finance committee, which has jurisdiction over federal health programs.

Wyden sent a separate letter to the Treasury Department in May requesting financial information about reports of “suspicious activity” related to Cohen, his firm and Novartis. Treasury officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Swiss prosecutors said Wednesday that, after a detailed examination, they won’t probe Novartis’s payments to Cohen, concluding that there was insufficient suspicion of bribery or that the payments were connected to an official act.

— With assistance by Saleha Mohsin

(Updates with request for Treasury comment in the sixth paragraph.)
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