Over the summer, the New York state attorney general whacked President Donald Trump with a massive lawsuit for misusing funds from his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Among the allegations was a charge that Trump used $10,000 of foundation money to purchase a portrait of himself. The purchase was made at a 2014 children’s charity auction at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Internet sleuths later tracked down the painting hanging at the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort.
Now, the president’s lawyers have argued there’s a very good reason Trump spent ten grand on a four-foot-tall painting of his own face: He was the only one who wanted it.
At a court hearing Thursday in New York, Trump attorney Alan Futerfas explained to Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Saliann Scarpulla that the President donated $10,000 to start the bidding on the portrait, only to find that no one else wanted to pay anywhere near that.
“So Mr. Trump donates $10,000 to start the bidding, and then. when the bidding goes on and no one else bids, they’re stuck with the painting,” Futerfas said, according to the New York Post .
Trump apparently couldn’t bear to use his own money on the portrait and instead billed his charity, the Post reported.
Because the painting later decorated his golf resort, prosecutors say the purchase “was used to benefit an organization controlled by the director of the Foundation and constituted improper self-dealing.”
The New York lawsuit reaches far beyond the scope of the painting, particularly when it comes to Trump’s dealings in Florida.
According to prosecutors, money from the president’s charitable foundation was used to settle a lawsuit between Mar-a-Lago and the Town of Palm Beach, which had cited the resort for violating its flagpole ordinance (yes, really). After Trump sued the town, arguing the ordinances were unconstitutional, the two parties agreed in 2007 that Trump would pay $100,000 to charity. Once again, Trump made the payment from his foundation instead of his own checkbook.
The Trump foundation also made an improper political donation of $25,000 to an electioneering committee for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013, New York prosecutors say. The donation happened around the time Bondi decided not to investigate complaints of consumer fraud against Trump University.
Trump’s attorneys have asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed. A Manhattan appeals court has yet to decide if a sitting president can be sued in state civil court.