Sen­a­tors Wyden, Mur­ray launch No­var­tis probe: 'What Amer­i­ca has seen here rais­es the specter of cor­rup­tion'

US Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden (D-OR) has opened up an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of No­var­tis’ $1.2 mil­lion in pay­ments to Michael Co­hen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al at­tor­ney.

In a let­ter dat­ed Fri­day, Wyden out­lined a se­ries of big busi­ness is­sues No­var­tis $NVS had in front of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment since it arranged the con­tract and hand­ed over about $100,000 a month in 12 pay­ments end­ing in Feb­ru­ary. Now the sen­a­tor wants a de­tailed out­line of who at No­var­tis was re­spon­si­ble for set­ting up the re­la­tion­ship and a copy of all the in­ter­ac­tions the com­pa­ny had with him — in let­ters, emails or any oth­er form.

“What de­liv­er­ables was the com­pa­ny seek­ing to gain?” he asks in the let­ter, first post­ed by STAT.

And he’s not alone. On the same day, Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray (D-WA) added to the De­moc­rats’ mes­sages di­rect­ed at No­var­tis.

“This arrange­ment rais­es se­ri­ous con­cerns about the length No­var­tis was will­ing to go in or­der to cur­ry fa­vor with this Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and per­haps more trou­bling­ly, what it ex­pect­ed or was promised in re­turn,” Mur­ray’s let­ter says, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from CNN.

Wyden writes:

Mr. Co­hen’s firm is not a health care pol­i­cy con­sul­tan­cy, nor is Mr. Co­hen a reg­is­tered lob­by­ist. He is the Pres­i­dent’s per­son­al at­tor­ney, and Es­sen­tial Con­sul­tants re­port­ed­ly claimed to be a re­al es­tate con­sult­ing com­pa­ny. More­over, the amount of mon­ey that No­var­tis paid Mr. Co­hen’s firm far ex­ceed­ed what it paid any of the reg­is­tered lob­by­ing firms it en­gaged dur­ing the first 15 months of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Lob­by­ing records main­tained by the Sec­re­tary of the Sen­ate show that No­var­tis paid 15 lob­by­ing firms a to­tal of $2.5 mil­lion dur­ing that pe­ri­od, and that no firm re­ceived more than $300,000. By com­par­i­son, No­var­tis rate of pay­ment Mr.Co­hen’s firm was equal to $300,000 every quar­ter for an en­tire year.

In an in­ter­view on CNN, Wyden bast­ed the deal with No­var­tis.

“What Amer­i­ca has seen here rais­es the specter of cor­rup­tion in the White House,” the sen­a­tor said Thurs­day, re­fer­ring to the deal as a cor­po­rate shake­down by a gov­ern­ment for sale. “I want to know what No­var­tis thought it was buy­ing for the $1.2 mil­lion.”

A spokesman for No­var­tis re­spond­ed to a query from End­points News, not­ing: “We an­tic­i­pat­ed this let­ter which we just re­ceived and plan to ful­ly co­op­er­ate.”

No­var­tis has mount­ed an en­er­getic de­fense of CEO Vas Narasimhan since the is­sue first came to light ear­li­er in the week. Ex­ec­u­tives have not­ed in a range of in­ter­views with Stat and NBC and CBS that it was Joe Jimenez, the CEO un­til the be­gin­ning of Feb­ru­ary, who was con­tact­ed by Co­hen and di­rect­ed com­pa­ny of­fi­cials to line up the re­la­tion­ship and start mak­ing pay­ments.

The in­sid­er told STAT:

With a new ad­min­is­tra­tion com­ing in, ba­si­cal­ly, all the tra­di­tion­al con­tacts dis­ap­peared and they were all new play­ers. We were try­ing to find an in­road in­to the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Co­hen promised ac­cess to not just Trump, but al­so the cir­cle around him. It was al­most as if we were hir­ing him as a lob­by­ist.

Jimenez has not re­spond­ed to sev­er­al at­tempts to reach him, and a com­pa­ny spokesper­son tells me they no longer have con­tact in­for­ma­tion.

Narasimhan has apol­o­gized to em­ploy­ees for get­ting caught in the po­lit­i­cal up­roar.

“We made a mis­take en­ter­ing in­to this en­gage­ment and as a con­se­quence are be­ing crit­i­cized by a world that ex­pects more from us,” Narasimhan wrote in a mes­sage to staffers. “Yes­ter­day was not a good day for No­var­tis.”

But Wyden wants more than apolo­gies. And the back­ground ex­pla­na­tion — fol­low­ing a rev­e­la­tion from Stormy Daniels’ at­tor­ney Michael Ave­nat­ti ty­ing pay­ments from No­var­tis, AT&T, and a Russ­ian oli­garch di­rect­ly to Co­hen — still leaves plen­ty of ques­tions for elect­ed of­fi­cials to probe in the months ahead.

No­var­tis has con­sid­er­able ex­plain­ing left to do. And that means Narasimhan’s hon­ey­moon pe­ri­od has been cut bru­tal­ly short.

Im­age: US sen­a­tor Ron Wyden on No­vem­ber 8th, 2016 af­ter win­ning re-elec­tion. Shut­ter­stock

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