Apr 10, 2018

Art collector Victor Pinchuk has been ensnared in the special counsel’s Russia investigation by a $150,000 payment to the Trump foundation.

Three sources told the New York Times that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating a $150,000 donation that Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate, gave to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in September 2015. The probe comes amid a broader investigation into foreign money going to then-candidate Trump in the years leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The payment was solicited by Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, and was given in exchange for a 20-minute appearance, via video, that Trump made at a conference in Kiev. The Mueller investigation has primarily focused on connections between the campaign and Russia, but the money from the Ukraine is significant because, as a former I.R.S. officer Marcus S. Owens told the Times, “it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence.” He also argued that $150,000 was “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.” The Victor Pinchuk Foundation said in a statement that it reached out to Trump to foster “enduring ties between Ukraine and the West” and that, in 2016, “it was by no means assured that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee.” Pinchuk is also one of the Ukraine’s biggest art collectors, known for displaying large-scale work by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst in his garden. In 2006, his foundation opened the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev, and in 2009 launched the Future Generation Art Prize, which is awarded biannually to artists under 35. (The total winnings are $100,000.)