Did Melania Trump Place the Winning Bid in Her Own NFT Auction?

The winning bid in Melania Trump’s first NFT auction appeared to come from the creators of her NFT, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.

The bid was made three weeks ago in the amount of 1,800 SOL, the cryptocurrency on the Solana blockchain, which is currently worth about $185,000.

Trump’s NFT, which she announced in early January, was part of a three-item package, dubbed “The Head of State Collection.” The collection also included a hat the former first lady wore during a 2018 state visit to France, as well as an original watercolor.

According to the story:

Transactions reviewed by Bloomberg News show that on Jan. 23, the digital wallet listed as the creator of Trump’s NFT transferred 372,657 USDC, a stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar, to a second wallet that later sent 1,800 SOL to a third address. That third one is listed as the winner of the auction on Trump’s website.

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On Jan. 27, the original wallet sent 1,800 SOL back to the second wallet address, according to blockchain transactions.

“The nature of Blockchain protocol is entirely transparent,” Melania’s office said in a statement provided to Bloomberg News. “Accordingly, the public can view each transaction on the Blockchain. The transaction was facilitated on behalf of a third-party buyer.”

Melania’s office did not immediately reply to a request for clarification from Rolling Stone.

Bloomberg News notes that it’s unclear if the price of Melania’s NFT was artificially raised through a process known as wash trading, or buying and selling one’s own asset in order to inflate its value. Wash trading is prohibited in conventional securities and futures, but NFTs are not securities and are traded in an unregulated market.

When Melania announced the cryptocurrency venture, she claimed “a portion” of the sales would go to Fostering the Future, which is part of her Be Best initiative. A press release stated that this would “assist children aging out of the foster care system by way of economic empowerment and with expanded access to resources needed to excel in the fields of computer science and technology.” Her office did not respond to Rolling Stone when asked how much specifically would go towards helping children.

A former Trump White House official told CNN in December that Melania’s foray into cryptocurrency is a cash grab from someone “trying to look busy.”

“This is not exactly using her platform for larger global or domestic impact,” said the former East Wing official. “This is ostensibly a quick moneymaker. It’s a classic Trump move, using their brand and their supporters to cash in.”

Former President Donald Trump had called cryptocurrency a “scam against the dollar,” but once his wife got involved, suddenly claimed that it “epitomizes our American Spirit of ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship.”

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