Michael Cohen appeared before Congress on Wednesday morning, testifying about the “illicit” activities of his former boss Donald Trump. One of the more surprising revelations was Cohen’s allegation that Trump once ordered him to hire a fake bidder, who would be repaid by the now-defunct Trump Organization, to purchase a portrait of himself.

“Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons event,” Cohen claimed. “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.”


Hiring a bidder to purchase something at an art auction isn’t a crime in itself. In fact, this and similar practices aren’t uncommon (for one example, many art house bids are “chandelier bids,” which aim to artificially make works more desirable). However, Trump in this instance utilized $60,000 from his purported charitable organization in a manner that directly benefited himself, a violation of law. It also speaks volumes for how much Trump values the public perception of himself.


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“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen said to Congress. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation — only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be ‘the greatest infomercial in political history.'” Cohen added how Trump readily inflated the value of his assets when it behoved him to do so, citing Trump’s desire to appear in Forbes‘ wealthiest people list as an example.

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