Novartis general counsel resigns over Cohen contract

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Novartis has denied it was trying to gain access to Trump via payments to a firm controlled by Michael Cohen.

Novartis AG said Wednesday its general counsel is retiring from the company in connection with its $1.2 million payments to a company owned by Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, as the Swiss drugmaker battles to contain the fallout from the arrangement.

Ehrat announced he'd step down from Novartis in June, admitted the Cohen deal was "an error."

Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels or knowing anything about that payment but his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged the U.S. president had in fact reimbursed Cohen for the payoff.

The announcement comes after Novartis was dragged into the scandal over Cohen's payment of $130,000 to USA porn actress Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

The payments were part of a yearlong contract Novartis had with Essential, in which the pharma company paid the consulting firm $100,000 a month.

After the news broke of the Novartis deal, United States media speculated the Swiss firm had been trying to gain access to the United States president.

Novartis previously admitted to hiring Essential in February 2017 for advice "as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters".

Novartis said its representatives met with Cohen in March 2017.

Apart from AT&T and Novartis, Cohen was also paid by Korea Aerospace Industries and Columbus Nova, a NY investment firm whose biggest client is Renova Group, a conglomerate owned by USA -sanctioned, Kremlin-backed Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg. Novartis Chief Executive Vasant Narasimhan last week called.

Jimenez said he had wanted to terminate the 12-month deal with Essential Communications as soon as he realised this was the case but decided against doing so because of potential legal costs involved - a decision he now considers a "mistake".