Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, testified on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, and his opening statement contained a multitude of credible allegations against Trump. Perhaps the most surprising assertion was that Trump instructed Cohen to arrange for a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of Trump and repaid the bidder with $60,000 taken from the Trump Foundation, the since-dissolved charitable branch of the Trump empire.
Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder despite keeping the art for himself.
While the use of a straw bidder is more common than one may suspect, claiming that the purchase of a $60,000 portrait of oneself is somehow charity remains rather anomalous. The portrait in question, by artist William Quigley, was bought by Trump’s straw bidder during the 2013 edition of the Art Hamptons fair and is now on display at a Trump country club, according to The Art Newspaper. It is one of at least three portraits Trump is said to have bought using his foundation’s funds.