In his testimony to the House Oversight Committee in Washington, D.C., today, Michael Cohen said of President Donald Trump, for whom he long worked: “He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat.”
Cohen also displayed a copy of a $35,000 check Trump allegedly gave to the onetime lawyer (he was disbarred yesterday) as reimbursement for payments used to cover up an alleged tryst with a retired pornographic film actress.
But this is an art magazine, so for us perhaps the most beguiling detail of the testimony is Cohen’s claim that in 2013 Trump used $60,000 from his charitable foundation to acquire a portrait of himself at a private auction through an intermediary.
CNN reported today that when a portrait of Trump by the artist William Quigley was on the block at an Art Hamptons charity event, Trump allegedly instructed Cohen to find a “straw bidder” to purchase the piece using funds from his foundation, which was dissolved under judicial supervision back in December. “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,” Cohen told the House Oversight Committee. Cohen stated that the fake bidder paid $60,000, which Trump reimbursed in full. Cohen also said that Trump kept the art, and that it is currently hanging in a Trump country club.
Naturally, Trump tweeted about this allegedly staged victory. “Just found out that at a charity auction of celebrity portraits in E. Hampton, my portrait by artist William Quigley topped list at $60K,” he wrote on July 16, 2013.
This isn’t the first time this episode has been covered by the press. A 2015 piece for the local Hampton publication Dan’s Paper reported that Trump called upon the billionaire art collector Stewart Rahr to do his bidding and that Quigley received a check for $67,000 from Trump personally.
Dan’s Paper also reported that the comedian Andy Dick—once the star of the MTV program The Assistant, which was in part a parody of Trump’s The Apprentice—was slated to be the event’s celebrity auctioneer, but he backed out.