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US military spends $130K a month to rent space in Trump Tower

US military spends $130K a month to rent space in Trump Tower
The Pentagon is spending $130,000 a month to rent space in Trump Tower, almost three times the market rate. The government said the owner of the space isn’t affiliated with the Trump Organization but does sit on the tower’s board.

The government signed a $2.39 million lease to rent an over 3,400 sq ft space in Trump Tower for the military from April 11, 2017, to September 30, 2018, according to lease documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

The government agreed to pay $180,000 for the last 20 days of April 2017 and then $130,000 a month thereafter, according to the contract released by the General Services Administration (GSA).

The Pentagon moved forward with obtaining the lease despite objections from Democrats over the “appearance” of renting from one of President Donald Trump’s properties.

“The space is necessary for the personnel and equipment who will support the [president] at his residence in the building,” a spokesman said in February.

In a letter to Representative Jackie Speier (D-California), who sits on the House Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, Defense Department official James MacStravic said the apartment is “privately owned and…leave negotiations have been with the owner’s representatives only.”

MacStravic's letter, dated March 3, added: "We are not aware of any means through which the President would personally benefit from a Government lease of this space."

The name of the owner is redacted on the GSA contract, which negotiates space for the government and was obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Wall Street Journal found records indicated the owner is Joel R. Anderson, a neighbor of Trump’s and chairman of the Anderson Media Corporation. The company’s website said Anderson was a member of Trump Tower’s board of directors.

Pamela Dixon, press secretary for the GSA, confirmed that the space in Trump Tower was privately owned by someone not affiliated with the Trump Organization. The GSA acquired the space for the use of a single agency.

“GSA works to ensure all contracts we execute respond to the needs of the agencies we support and provide the best value for the American taxpayer,” Dixon told the Wall Street Journal.

Trump hasn’t stayed at the property for one night since becoming president, and First Lady Melania Trump and the couple’s son, Barron, moved to the White House on June 11.

The Pentagon said the White House Military Office provides vital services that are required by law to be near the president at all times, such as medical, food, transportation and communication services. It is the same office that carries and safeguards the "nuclear football," the device that contains the top secret launch codes the president needs to order a nuclear attack.

Its operations are separate from those of the Secret Service.

The lease rate being paid by the military is far above the typical rate for such a space, making it one of the most costly real estate rentals in Manhattan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A similar listing in the same building in the spring of 2016 went for $50,000 a month unfurnished, and $60,000 a month furnished, according to Streeteasy.com.

The White House, Secret Service and Defense Department would not comment to Reuters in May on whether similar arrangements have been made at other properties Trump frequents ‒ Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump often spends weekends.

Other agencies, such as the Secret Service, also face increased costs stemming from Trump’s frequent visits to his private properties and his large family.

The Secret Service requested an additional $25.7 million in the 2018 budget to cover expenses associated with securing Trump Tower and the president’s “protective footprint” in New York City.

Trump developed Trump Tower with the Equitable Life Assurance Company in the late 1970s as a mixed-use building, with retail at the base, office space above and then residential condominiums beginning on the 30th floor. The Trump Organization continues to own the commercial space, but the residential space is owned by individual unit owners. Trump also owns the penthouse on the 66th floor.

In February, the State Department spent over $15,000 of taxpayer money at a Trump-branded hotel in Vancouver, Canada, so that Secret Service and State Department personnel could accompany President Trump’s children as they participated in its grand opening, government records showed.

The president’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, their spouses, as well as the president’s daughter, Tiffany, were at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in the Canadian city on February 28.
Hotel bookings showed that the State Department booked 19 rooms at the luxury hotel for a total cost of $15,000.

Even though the Trump Organization does not own the hotel in Vancouver, the company manages it and licenses the name.

In May, Congress allocated an additional $120 million to help cover the “extraordinary” costs of protecting the president and his family through the end of September.