Defense department says use of private apartment for White House Military Office, which safeguards device holding launch codes, will not benefit president
The Pentagon is finalizing a lease on a privately owned apartment in Trump Tower for the use of the White House Military Office, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
The Military Office carries and safeguards the “football”, the device that contains the top secret launch codes the president needs to order a nuclear attack, as well as providing secure communications wherever the president is.
The New York City lease will not provide any benefit to Trump or his organization, the letter says.
The White House, Secret Service, and defense department had no comment on whether similar arrangements had 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 was spending this weekend.
In a letter to Jackie Speier, a Democrat on the House armed services and intelligence committees, a defense official, James MacStravic, said the apartment is “privately owned and … lease negotiations have been with the owner’s representatives only”.
MacStravic, who wrote that he was “temporarily performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics”, said any acquisition of leased space with “an annual rental in excess of $1m must first be approved by my office”.
He “approved this action” after consulting with the White House Military Office and other officials, he said.
Officials declined to reveal the cost of the lease or identify the owners of the apartment.
MacStravic’s letter, dated 3 March, added: “We are not aware of any means through which the president would personally benefit from a government lease of this space.”
The letter explained that the White House Military Office, a Pentagon unit, “requested approval to lease space in the Trump Tower for personnel assigned to support the President when at his private residence”.
In February, the presence of the “football” at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida caused concern when a guest took a selfie with the military official carrying it and posted the picture to Facebook.
A White House spokeswoman had no information on the leasing issue. The Trump Organization did not reply to an email requesting comment.
When the Pentagon first acknowledged that it was seeking to lease space in Trump Tower, some Democrats questioned whether such a move would produce a financial windfall for Trump.
“I am concerned by the appearance that the president of the United States will financially benefit from this deal at the expense of the Department of Defense – and ultimately, taxpayers,” Speier wrote to the defense secretary, James Mattis, shortly after the Trump Tower issue became public in February.
By negotiating only with representatives of the owners of a private apartment, the Pentagon said it was seeking to avoid such concerns.
H/t reader kevin a.
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