The US military is finalizing a lease on a privately owned apartment in the New York-based Trump Tower for use by the White House Military Office, which carries and safeguards the so-called “football,” containing top secret codes the US president needs to order a nuclear attack.
The development was revealed Saturday in a Reuters report that cited a letter written by a Defense Department official, James MacStravic, to Democratic Congresswoman and member of the House armed services and intelligence committees, Jackie Speier, to ensure that the lease does not provide any financial benefit to President Donald Trump or his real estate empire.
The apartment is “privately owned and … lease negotiations have been with the owner’s representatives only,” the letter read. Officials, however, declined to reveal the cost of the lease or identify the representatives for the apartment.
The presence of the “football” – a device that contains secret launch codes for a nuclear attack — at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida caused concern when a guest took a selfie with the military official carrying it and then posted the picture on Facebook in February.
This is while a White House spokeswoman said she had no information on the leasing issue, and the Trump Organization did not reply to an email requesting comment.
Moreover, the White House, Secret Service, and the Pentagon did not comment on whether similar lease arrangements had been worked out at other Trump-built properties frequented by the US president such as the Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
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 $1 million must first be approved by my office.”
He “approved this action” after consulting with the White House Military Office and other officials, he added.
A number of Democratic lawmakers have questioned such a move, arguing, that it would produce financial benefits 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 US Defense Secretary James Mattis shortly after the Trump Tower lease became public in February.
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 letter further 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.”