POLITICS

Senators Question Rudy Giuliani's Role In Purdue Pharma Opioid Plea Deal

They want to determine if Giuliani firm's $1 million contract with the DOJ as he represented OxyContin company resulted in "unduly lenient treatment."

Two Democratic senators are calling for information into potential conflict of interest issues concerning Rudy Giuliani and a federal investigation of an opioid manufacturing pharmaceutical company Giuliani represented.

Giuliani’s firm, Giuliani Partners, had a $1 million consultant contract with the Department of Justice for advice on reorganizing its drug investigations at the same time he was representing Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma against the DOJ, the New York Times has reported.

The unusual arrangement may have resulted in “unduly lenient treatment” of the company that makes the powerfully addictive opioid OxyContin, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in letters Wednesday to the heads of the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A 2007 Purdue plea deal with the Justice Department over aggressive marketing of the dangerous drug at the heart of the nation’s opioid addictions has drawn new scrutiny in the wake of recent revelations in news reports and the continuing tragic toll of opioid overdoses in America. The Centers for Disease Control reported last week that a record 72,000 people were killed by opioid overdoses last year. The Justice Department accused Purdue of deliberately downplaying the known dangers of the drug. 

Purdue’s holding company, Purdue Frederick, ultimately pleaded guilty to a single felony of “misbranding” OxyContin. The company and three executives paid more than $630 million in penalties in a plea deal. No executives were charged with felonies that could have sent them to prison, despite the recommendations of DOJ staff attorneys, according to the Times.

Purdue Pharma, with Giuliani’s help, was allowed to continue selling the same volume of the drug. It also continued to supply the drugs through Medicaid, Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration.

Among Giuliani’s “missions” while working for the pharmaceutical company was to convince DOJ officials that they “could trust Purdue because they could trust him,” the Times reported after the deal was reached. 

“Facts suggest DOJ [and DEA] officials may have agreed to an inappropriately lenient treatment of Purdue Pharma simply because it was represented by Mr. Giuliani,” Hassan and Whitehouse wrote in their letters, which were first reported on by Mother Jones.

“The public health consequences of that decision may have been immense, and deserve greater scrutiny” by Congress, the DOJ and DEA, they added.

While Giuliani was negotiating on Purdue’s behalf in 2006, he was also helping to raise money for a DEA museum, according to the Times. He’s currently working as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney.

Ironically, the president earlier this month asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to file a federal lawsuit against companies that manufacture opioids, though publicly offered no other details. “I’d like a lawsuit to be brought against these companies that are really sending opioids at a level — it shouldn’t be happening,” he said. “So highly addictive.” 

He and first lady Melania Trump on Friday toured a hospital with babies born to opioid-addicted mothers to highlight the drug problem.

“Purdue shares the president’s concern about the opioid crisis,” the company said in a statement in response to Trump’s call for lawsuits. “Purdue is committed to working collaboratively ... on meaningful solutions to help stem the tide of opioid-related overdose deaths.”

Opioid manufacturers are already the target of hundreds of state and local lawsuits.

Hassan and Whitehouse asked for all documents related to Giuliani’s involvement in the DOJ negotiations. They also inquired about “what steps were taken” to ensure that Giuliani’s relationships with the DOJ “did not improperly influence plea negotiations” — and if anyone at the DOJ raised concerns about Giuliani Partners’ “simultaneous representation of Purdue Pharma and consulting work for the DOJ.”

Giuliani could not immediately be reached for comment on the letters sent to the DEA and DOJ. But in 2007, he told The Associated Press the following: “Everything I did with Giuliani Partners has been totally legal, totally ethical. There’s nothing for me to explain about it. We’ve acted honorably, decently.” 

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