Pentagon may lease space in Trump Tower at taxpayers’ expense
The line separating Trump’s personal business interests and his role as President of the United States continues to blur, as the Washington Post reports today that the Pentagon may lease “a limited amount of space” in Trump Tower. In doing so, the U.S. Defense Department says it will be able to better protect Trump’s family, as Melania and Barron have decided to remain in the couple’s gilded Trump Tower penthouse, and Donald himself when he is town. The move, however, has one major and obvious sticking point: rent on the space would need to be paid to the Trump Organization—and taxpayer dollars would be used to foot the bill.
“In order to meet official mission requirements, the Department of Defense is working through appropriate channels and in accordance with all applicable legal requirements in order to acquire a limited amount of leased space in Trump Tower,” Lt. Col. JB Brindle, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement. “The space is necessary for the personnel and equipment who will support the POTUS at his residence in the building.”
The Pentagon defends the space is necessary to keep military close by to protect the president from unforeseen threats, as well as the “nuclear football” that needs to be near Trump at all times.
While having military personnel close or even in shared quarters is not uncommon—even President Obama made similar arrangements at his private Chicago residence—in this case, it is important to emphasize that rent paid on any occupied space would go directly to Trump’s business interests.
According to a CNN reporter Ryan Browne, who contacted the company responsible for leasing office space in Trump Tower, “the floors available to rent—with the average floor space running between 13,500 to 15,500 square feet—cost about $1.5 million a year.”
Thus far, Trump has shrugged off any pressure to cut ties from his businesses, instead opting to hand off control to his sons, who also play prominent roles as Trump Organization executives.
“I have never heard of a president charging rent to the DOD or any other part of the government so they can be near him on his travels,” said Richard Painter, a former White House lawyer who is currently involved in a lawsuit against Trump over his continued business entanglements, to the Washington Post. “He should give them for free a very limited amount of space and they can rent nearby if needed.”
Currently, a separate secret service detail is posted at Trump Tower 24/7, although it is not clear if they are leasing any space. According to previous reports, if they are, taxpayers are spending an estimated $3 million annually to keep them at the tower around the clock. Additionally, the NYPD spent about $500,000 a day on security and employed nearly 200 cops to secure the area around Trump Tower when the president was in town prior to the inauguration. Now, police officers join the Secret Service in escorting Melania and Barron to and from the child’s school twice daily.
[Via Washington Post]