Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee is underway and as a result one of President Donald Trump's old tweets is getting renewed attention.
In his opening statement, Cohen tells the story of Trump's directive 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.
Trump's own words memorialized on Twitter from 2013 echoes Cohen's story.
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 (@Donald J. Trump) 1373985895.0
In light of Cohen's reveal, the tweet has certainly not aged well.
People were calling Trump out for his straw bidder scheme even back then.
@KJTESTIN actually he has a shill that goes and bids for him. Then he brags that highest bigger. I got your number Donald!— margaret hughes (@margaret hughes) 1374011499.0
@realDonaldTrump you prob bought it yourself— Linsey F Pizzuto (@Linsey F Pizzuto) 1373986247.0
As one (more recent) social media user noted: "All this bizarre narcissism was out there and yet here we are."
That painting is one of three alleged to have been purchased with Trump Foundation money:
- Last year, news outlets reported that Trump "offered to pay $10,000 from his personal charitable foundation for a six-foot oil portrait of himself" after no one offered to buy it.
- In 2016, news outlets reported that Trump used $20,000 from his personal charitable foundation to pay for a painting of himself in 2007 during an auction at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
NEW: Here's the portrait that @realDonaldTrump bought for $20,000, and paid for with money earmarked for charity. S… https://t.co/YR9EG2qtZ1— David Fahrenthold (@David Fahrenthold) 1478026355.0
The president insists Cohen is lying. Earlier today, after Cohen's testimony leaked to the press, Trump insisted Cohen "did bad things unrelated to Trump."
"He is lying in order to reduce his prison time," he added.
Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also. He was just di… https://t.co/nM5ua0wmo3— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1551258483.0
The White House, via Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also dismissed Cohen as “a disgraced felon.”
“It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies,” she said.
The allegation about the painting is one of several bombshells Cohen reveals in his testimony. Cohen referred to his former employer as a “con man” and a “cheat” who knew his political adviser Roger Stone was communicating with Wikileaks:
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”
He also says Trump implicitly told him to lie about all matters related to a Trump Tower construction project in Moscow that was underway during the 2016 presidential campaign. Then Trump lied about it rather brazenly:
“Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.”
Included with Cohen's testimony are several documents and other evidence to back up his claims, such as copies of wire transfers and checks related to hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford), who alleged that she had an affair with President Trump and that Cohen had been instructed to keep her silent in a bid to influence the presidential campaign