Novartis Got Out-Lawyered by Michael Cohen for Trump Services

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG and US telecommunications company AT&T Inc said they made payments to Cohen's firm, Essential Consultants, in efforts to gain intelligence into the Trump administration's thinking on issues affecting them.

Althoff says Novartis complied with requests for information about the payments from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators in November. "Novartis considers this matter closed", it said.

"Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him". Now, the shell company he used to pay hush money to a woman who allegedly had an extra-marital affair with Trump has been linked to a variety of firms, including AT&T, according to a New York Times report.

A Democratic U.S. senator called for hearings about the company payments to the firm run by Cohen, a longtime attorney and self-described "fixer" for Trump.

"Whenever you think the Trump soap opera couldn't get any more weird, it does", said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

Charged with protecting then-candidate Donald Trump from the negative publicity that would arise from his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, he created Essential Consultants, a company which tried - and, as the last few months prove, failed - to buy her silence for $130,000. She has sued both Trump and Cohen. Avenatti declined to reveal his source, but told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night that "people want to help our cause, people contact us with information".

Avenatti won't say where he received the information on Cohen's bank history.

Cohen's lawyers sent a letter to a federal judge Wednesday, saying Avenatti's claims were inaccurate and that he may have obtained the records illegally.

Cohen is also under investigation by federal prosecutors in NY, who are probing his business practices and efforts to squash negative stories about Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election. The payments were made by Columbus Nova, an American investment company, Avenatti alleges.

A spokesperson for Vekselberg, who is the biggest investor in Columbus Nova, said he had nothing to do with the decision to hire Essential Consulting. 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.

AT&T said in a statement that Essential Consultants was one of several firms it "engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration".

AT&T confirmed the payments to CNET and other news outlets Tuesday evening, but did not specify the amount.

The company is in contention for a multibillion joint USA contract with Lockheed Martin for jet trainers.

"He imagined himself as chief of staff", the Times said. "Well, I mean, they've got important government business, right?"

Spokesman Rich Delmar said the office was looking into whether so-called bank suspicious activity reports (SARs) or Bank Secrecy Act information had been "improperly disseminated". Moscow has denied USA intelligence agency conclusions of tampering and Trump denies any coordination with Russian officials and his campaign.

  • Leroy Wright