The Department of Defense is seeking to rent space in President Trump’s New York skyscraper, Trump Tower, a move that could directly funnel government money into the president’s business interests.
The U.S. military agency is “working through appropriate channels . . . to acquire a limited amount of leased space in Trump Tower,” Lt. Col. J.B. Brindle, a Pentagon spokesman, told The Washington Post in a statement late Tuesday.
“The space is necessary for the personnel and equipment who will support the POTUS at his residence in the building,” Brindle said.
The space will be separate from the Secret Service detail that is routinely based in Trump’s signature midtown tower, where his private company, the Trump Organization, is headquartered and where he owns a lavish triplex penthouse.
Although Trump now officially lives in the White House, the Trump Tower residence still houses his family, including first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron.
Defense officials made similar arrangements for past presidents, including at the Chicago home of Barack Obama, to offer support for day-to-day operations of the president and his staff.
But the prospect of a government agency paying rent to a company owned by the president again raises additional questions about the mingling of Trump’s financial interests with his presidency. Trump led the development of the Fifth Avenue skyscraper in the 1980s and still owns it.
Defense officials would not say what they expected to spend on the space. But CNN, which first reported the news, quoted a leasing agent who estimated renting a floor in Trump Tower can cost about $1.5 million a year.
Trump Organization and White House officials did not respond to requests for comment late Tuesday.
The military interest in Trump Tower could reinvigorate questions over how much Trump properties are benefiting from Trump’s public office. Trump has resisted calls to divest his financial stake in business interests, although he has resigned from his official management roles and left the companies’ operations to his adult sons and a longtime executive in his company.
“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 chief White House ethics counsel under George W. Bush who is part of a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating a constitutional ban for his continued ownership interest in a Washington hotel. “He should give them for free a very limited amount of space and they can rent nearby if needed.”