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Trump spent $60,000 in foundation money to buy vanity portrait, Michael Cohen reveals in testimony

The US President’s former lawyer and “fixer” tells Congress the candidate used a straw bidder to ensure his likeness was the top lot of an Art Hamptons auction

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, testifying before US Congress’s House Oversight and Reform Committee, has stated that the US president used $60,000 in funds from his now-dissolved charitable foundation to buy a portrait of himself at the Art Hamptons fair in 2013.

William Quigley's portrait of Donald Trump (centre) was bought by a straw bidder at an Art Hamptons auction in 2013, Cohen testified

Cohen stated that Trump set up a fake buyer to bid on his portrait by the artist William Quigley at the Art Hamptons auction so that it would garner the highest price among all of the works in the sale. As the last lot, the portrait ultimately went for $60,000, and the Trump Foundation then repaid the straw bidder. Cohen also testified that the portrait is now displayed in a country club owned by Trump.

The defunct foundation’s other questionable spending includes buying another portrait of Trump at a 2014 auction for $10,000 after no bids were placed on the work, and using $20,000 in charity funds to buy a painting of a firefighter from an auction at Mar-a-Lago in 2007.

The Trump Foundation dissolved under judicial supervision, following an agreement with the New York State Attorney General’s office signed in December. In a statement, the state Attorney General Barbara Underwood referred to the “shocking illegality” of the Trump Foundation’s activities, and said that its “[functioned] as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests”. These included payments to his 2016 presidential campaign, a $130,000 payment to the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) in hush money over an extra-marital sexual encounter between Clifford and Trump.