On Thursday, Manhattan Supreme Court judge Saliann Scarpulla heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by New York State, arguing that President Donald Trump's charitable foundation, which predates his presidency, was being used as a slush fund.
One of the issues brought up during the hearing was a painting of Trump that was purchased with $10,000 in Trump Foundation money at a fundraising auction at Mar-a-Lago in 2014.
But Trump's lawyers presented an incredible excuse for this: Trump had to buy the painting because no one else offered a bid on it.
“So Mr. Trump donates $10,000 to start the bidding," said attorney Alan Futerfas, "and then when the bidding goes on and no one else bids, they’re stuck with the painting.”
That is all well and good, but it does not explain why Trump, who is very famously a billionaire, did not then just purchase the painting with his own funds, rather than use money that was marked out for charitable funds.
Trump may have believed what he was doing was okay because the auction itself was being raised for a charitable cause, the Unicorn Foundation. But it is harder to explain away other transactions that were allegedly paid for by the Trump Foundation, including to pay off golf debts, decorate his country club, boost his campaign for president, and, perhaps shadiest of all, to settle lawsuits against him.
Questions about the Trump Foundation have lingered since the 2016 campaign. Indeed, this is not the only giant portrait of Trump that the Trump Foundation is accused of buying improperly — another was purchased for $20,000 in 2007.
According to the New York Post, Scarpulla has said that she will put any ruling on hold until a Manhattan appeals court can rule on whether there is standing to sue a president in a civil state court.
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