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$450 million record-breaking sale of da Vinci painting collides with Trump-Russia investigation

The arts and culture editors and the people covering politics need to mingle more at the newsroom water cooler.

I know that because a major news story yesterday found a nexus between the record sale of a da Vinci painting and the Robert Mueller Russia investigation – but the connection went widely unnoticed.

You may have read that here in New York City, Leonardo da Vinci’s long-lost painting “Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”) sold for a record-breaking $450 million at a Christie’s auction.

Billionaires were astounded by the sale price, as it was many millions above what they were expecting. The artworld enthusiasts cheered in the packed auction room, witnessing it become the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

Word of the record sale swept across social media and posts went up on news websites. It was reported on the evening newscasts and stories were readied for the next-day newspapers. A headline news story — mainly for the upper crust — but a bona fide news story nonetheless.


Now to the connection to the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. One aspect of Mueller’s probe is to find out if President Trump had connections to Russian government officials and business leaders – including the oligarchs. For instance, a Russian oligarch purchased a Trump mansion in Florida, known as Maison de L’Amite, for $95 million in July, 2008. The sale price, which was $13 million above any other mansion up for sale in Palm Beach at the time, came at the height of the global financial crisis. That had some people scratching their heads

That same oligarch has come under scrutiny after it was learned that his plane happened to be at the same airport as Donald Trump’s plane – twice — in Las Vegas and Charlotte, during the presidential campaign. What has been dismissed as a coincidence has led to suspicion of a tie between Trump and Russia.

Now back to the record art sale in New York. The buyer of the long-lost Da Vinci was none other that Dmitry Rybolovlev, that same oligarch who put out extra millions for the Trump mansion and whose plane kept popping-up at the same airport as candidate Trump. Rybolovlev, the President of a Monaco-based football club, has not only emerged as a possible figure in the Trump-Russia investigation, but is expected to face charges in Monaco in a complicated privacy violation case.


The arts and culture editors kept their stories strictly to the record-breaking sale of the Da Vinci painting and only referred to Rybolvlev as a Russian billionaire. The name Trump was absent from their stories. The politics reporters have for months been researching the oligarch’s every move, scouring aviation timetables, going through real estate records and publishing profiles, trying to find that elusive possible tie to Trump. It can be expected that those same reporters will soon have some things to say about Dmitry Rybolovlev’s taste for fine art, as they slowly figure out that that the man who may have over payed for a Trump mansion is the same guy who picked up a Da Vinci yesterday for a cool $450 million. If it isn’t done in hard reporting, I’ll at least look out for the quips on Twitter.