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Top lawyer at Novartis to step down amid Michael Cohen scandal

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

Trump's attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, earlier this month said that Trump reimbursed Cohen $130,000 for the payment to Clifford before Trump's 2016 election.

The disclosure caps a series of contradictory statements from Trump and his representatives on the scandal swirling around lawyer Michael Cohen - which has widened to ensnare major corporations and a Russian oligarch. A footnote in tiny type on page 45 of the 92 page document says the president "fully reimbursed" Cohen for "expenses" ranging from $100,001 to $250,000.

Trump's revelation came in his signed disclosure report, required by federal ethics law.

The Stormy Daniels payment is a potential legal problem for the president because it could be seen as an illegal campaign contribution.

Cohen's company Essential Consultants had a one-year $1.2 million contract with Novartis during the beginning of the Trump administration. Trump and Giuliani have clashed over what the president knew and when he knew it.

A Qatari diplomat - who told the Post about Cohen's offer - said the lawyer offered to find US infrastructure projects for Qatar to sponsor in exchange for the $1 million.

"Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain USA healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act", Novartis said.

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Cohen's attorney, Steve Ryan, refused to discuss the $500,000 deposit when requested to do so by The Atlantic, but insisted it "wasn't a payment".

Whether Trump committed a crime by not disclosing the Cohen payments a year ago is a matter of whether or not he purposely omitted them, according to experts.

A liberal-leaning watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint in March requesting an investigation into the payment and whether Trump broke the law by failing to disclose it previous year.

The letter constitutes a referral by the ethics office of a possible false financial filing.

Last week, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti wrote on Twitter that Novartis and USA telecoms giant AT&T had used the services of Cohen's firm Essential Consultants - the same company used to make the payment to Daniels. "Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen", the disclosure report said.

Trump's hotel in the USA capital, which opened in late 2016, took in $40.4 million during 2017 while the Florida resort had revenues of $25.1 million past year.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group that first flagged Trump's financial disclosure omission in a complaint filed in March, welcomed Apol's findings and called on the Justice Department to launch an investigation.

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