The U.S. government is paying more than $130,000 a month to lease space in Trump Tower for the military office that supports the White House, even though Donald Trump hasn’t spent a night at the New York skyscraper since becoming president.
The government signed a $2.39 million lease to rent a 3,475 sq. ft. space in the building for the military from Apr. 11, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018, nearly 18 months in total, according to lease documents that The Wall Street Journal obtained through a freedom of information request.
The government agreed to pay $180,000 for the last 20 days of April 2017 and $130,000 a month thereafter, according to the contract released by the General Services Administration, the agency that negotiates office space agreements for the government.
The military’s lease in Trump Tower puts the space far above market rate for similarly sized apartments in the luxury high rise market and makes it one of the most expensive residential rentals in Manhattan.
The U.S. military uses the White House Military Office to provide medical, food, transportation and communications services that by regulation need to be close to the president at all times. The military also ensures that the so-called nuclear football—the briefcase that allows the president to authorize a nuclear attack—accompanies the commander in chief during his travels. Its operations are separate from those of the Secret Service.
The Secret Service, for example, requested an additional $25.7 million in the 2018 budgetto cover expenses associated with securing Trump Tower and the president’s “protective footprint” in New York City.
The most expensive Trump Tower listing recently was a 3,725 sq. ft., three-bedroom apartment on the 62nd floor. It was listed in the spring of 2016 for $50,000 a month unfurnished and $60,000 a month furnished, according to Streeteasy.com.
The Pentagon said in February that it was looking to lease space in Trump Tower to carry out its support functions for Mr. Trump, who has both a home and an office in the New York skyscraper that bears his name.
Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox News in April that he feels guilty when he returns to Trump Tower because it is very expensive for the country and the street closures inconvenience New Yorkers. First lady Melania Trump and Barron Trump, the couple’s son, moved to the White House from Trump Tower on June 11.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. The Pentagon referred a request for comment on the matter to the White House and the GSA.
James A. MacStravic, the acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said in a March 3 letter to Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, that the Pentagon wasn’t aware of any means by which Mr. Trump would benefit personally from the lease.
“To alleviate your principal concern (i.e. that the president of the United States might financially benefit from the lease effort), please know that this residential space is privately owned and that lease negotiations have been with the owner’s representatives only,” Mr. MacStravic wrote before the lease was signed. “We are not aware of any means through which the president would personally benefit from a government lease of this space.”
Mr. MacStravic said in the letter that the White House Military Office had requested approval to lease space in Trump Tower for personnel assigned to support the president while at his private residence, which he said in the letter was typical of similar support provided to past presidents and vice presidents.
The requirement for proximity to the president’s residence “drives the location and price for this acquisition,” he said, noting that his office’s analysis indicated that renting in the building was cheaper than purchasing.
The GSA signed an 18-month “firm lease” with the owner of the Trump Tower property, according to the document. The contract, which went into effect on April 13, says the government can cancel the lease at any time after the “firm term” expires by providing no less than 180 days advance notice to the owner, the document says.
Though the name of the property owner is redacted on the contract, the GSA lease inventory lists the owner of the space in Trump Tower as Joel R. Anderson, a businessman originally from Alabama and a neighbor of Mr. Trump’s in the building. Mr. Anderson is the chairman of Anderson Media Corp., a large DVD, CD and book distributor. His biography on the company’s website describes him as a member of Trump Tower’s board of directors.
The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pamela A. Dixon, press secretary for the GSA, confirmed that the space in Trump Tower was privately owned by someone not affiliated with the Trump Organization. She said the GSA acquired the space for 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,” Ms. Dixon said.
The Secret Service, a separate agency under the Department of Homeland Security that protects the president and his family, said in a statement that it “continues to work with GSA to secure suitable work space to support our protective operations at Trump Tower.”
“For operational security reasons, the Secret Service cannot discus specifically nor in general terms the means, methods, resources, costs or numbers we utilize to carry out our protective responsibilities,” Shawn L. Holtzclaw, staff assistant in the Secret Service’s Office of Government & Public Affairs, said in a statement.
Mr. 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. Mr. Trump also owns the 6, 096 penthouse on the 66th floor.