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Trump’s Fixer Michael Cohen and Drug Maker Novartis: How “Business” is Done in Our Federal Government, and How This Relates to Fascism

2018-07-17

Among the revelations after Michael Cohen (Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer”) had his residence and office raided recently was the news that Mr. Cohen had several contracts with American corporations in 2017 for unclear reasons.  Among those companies was Novartis, maker of Clozaril (clozapine, an aytpical antipsychotic), Voltaren (diclofenac, an ibuprofen-like anti-arthritic pain drug), Tegretol (carbamazepine), Diovan (valsartan, a blood pressure drug) Gleevec ( imatinib, a new anti-cancer drug) , Neoral (an immune suppressant), Ritalin (methylphenidate, a stimulant often used in attention deficit disorder), Lamisil (terbinafine, an antifungal), and many others; Novartis is one of the biggest drug makers in the world and was third-largest Swiss-headquartered corporation of any kind for some years.

Novartis contracted for Michael Cohen’s services for $100,000 a month for a year starting in January 2017; their CEO at the time, Joe Jimenez, has said that it became apparent at their first meeting that Cohen was unsuitable for his task of providing “access to key policymakers.”  Nonetheless, they did not cancel the contract despite a clause requiring “satisfactory performance”.  Mr. Jimenez apparently claimed that there was only one meeting, but Senate Democrats, in a report released Friday, revealed that there were several further contacts, including at least two emails from Cohen and scheduled calls from Jimenez to Cohen.

Mr. Jimenez stated that, at their first meeting, it was apparent that  “Mr. Cohen had made no effort to learn anything about Novartis, or the policy issues that were of concern to Novartis specifically, or the pharmaceutical industry generally.”  Why this single meeting displaying Cohen’s ignorance and lack of interest did not prompt cancellation of the contract is a mystery to me.

One email chain of some significance included Jimenez’ wish list of government initiatives that supposedly were aimed at reducing drug prices.  Parts of this wish list appeared later, in a document released by the Trump administration that they called their “drug price blueprint”.

Another email chain from Cohen touted a small drug company as an investment for Novartis.  Jimenez responded to the initial email within an hour.  Novartis never invested in the drug company, although they did look into the possibility.

This is how federal government works these days: corporations invest in people with access to the levers of power, personal relationships to the president and his staff.  Suggestions and advice travel back and forth in this personal chain of influence, and the people with access are enriched– in this case, $1.2 million over 12 months, deposited to the same account used to pay off “Stormy Daniels” (Stephanie Clifford) for her silence prior to the election (also known as blackmail.)  That the people in power are also enriched goes without saying, although their payoffs come in different forms.  Naturally, this is un-Constitutional, under the so-called “Emoluments Clause”, although this clause has never yet been enforced.

Mr. Trump was plainly in violation of the emoluments clause from the day of his inauguration, through his control of an hotel in Washington DC; all the foreign dignitaries and many American VIPs stay there, especially when they have business with the government.  No-one has stepped forward to enforce the Constitution against Mr. Trump, although private parties have filed civil lawsuits.  With impunity, the other steps towards fascism come so much more easily.  Remember that fascism is an alliance of private businesses with government which perverts democracy and leads to its destruction– the only other step needed is government violence against parties who exercise their free-speech rights to object to government misbehavior.

By these definitions, fascism is a feature of the largest national governments in the world: China, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and possibly even India.  We are not yet under a fascist government, but it will not be long at this rate.

(details of the Novartis–Michael Cohen story are from a report in today’s Los Angeles Times; information about Novartis’ drugs come from Wikipedia.  Other details are common knowledge already.)

(image courtesy of pixabay.com and mamuki0, of a WWII-era Spanish peseta showing a pair of fasces– a bundle of sticks and an axe bound together– from which the term fascism is derived– on the sides of the coat of arms)

 

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