His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen made the astounding claim
A fiery testimony from US president Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has claimed before the US Congress that Trump dropped $60,000 on a nine-foot tall portrait of himself, using his foundation’s money.
Cohen alleged that the president ordered that a straw bidder (a false buyer) be found in 2013 to purchase the painting by William Quigley, which was up for auction. He then paid $60,000 in funds taken from the Trump Foundation, a charitable organisation.
Cohen recalled the incident when testifying in front of the House oversight committee, telling them, according to CNN: “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 organisation, to repay the fake bidder despite keeping the art for himself.”
The art is reportedly now hanging in one of the president’s country houses. Trump tweeted at the time, as if surprised: “Just found out that at a charity auction of celebrity portraits in E. Hampton, my portrait by artist William Quigley topped (the) list at $60K”.
CNN reports that the straw buyer was Trump friend, prominent art collector, pharmaceutical billionaire, and self-described “king of all fun” Stewart Rahr, though he didn’t respond for comment.
Just found out that at a charity auction of celebrity portraits in E. Hampton, my portrait by artist William Quigley topped list at $60K— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2013
This isn’t the only questionable use of the charity’s funds, which was dissolved in December following accusations of a “shocking pattern of illegality”. Attorney General Barbara Underwood released a statement describing it as “little more than a checkbook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests”. In 2014, Trump reportedly bought another painting of himself for $10,000 with the foundation's money.
Other claims made in the statement accused Trump of covering up an affair with adult film actor Stormy Daniels with hush money funneled from the charity, and using $20,000 in charity funds to buy a painting of a firefighter from an auction at Mar-a-Lago back in 2007. It also details claims of the president having prior knowledge of the WikiLeaks scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton. Cohen unflinchingly labelled him as a “racist”, “conman” and a “cheat”.