Secret Service Evicted from Trump Tower in NYC 0

The Secret Service detail charged with providing security for President Donald J. Trump and his family when they are at The Trump Tower in New York City has been evicted from its rented space on the 55th floor of the Trump Tower in a dispute with the Trump Organization, which operates the building. According to a copyrighted article by Carol D. Leonnig, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell, published by The Washington Post on August 3, 2017, the Secret Service detail was relocated to a trailer on the sidewalk outside the building early in July in a dispute over the cost of the space and other “unnamed” considerations.

TURF WARS ON FIFTH AVENUE

Based on other lease agreements involving government agencies, the current lease agreement might include strict government mandated energy-efficiency guidelines, adherence to federal fair-hiring practices, and high-profile signage encouraging whistle blowers to report fraud against the federal government. Such government mandates are currently being targeted by the Trump administration as excessive regulations that restrain free trade, leaving Trump in the embarrassing position of having to abide by regulations he has been railing against.

That last point is particularly irksome for Trump supporters because of charges that the Trump Administration is generating revenues for the Trump Organization in the process of protecting President Trump, which some Constitutional scholars have labeled a violation of the emollients clause. The president and his legal team have dismissed those allegations claiming that the president is exempt from the emollients clause, which states that officers of the government may not accept gifts from foreign powers nor benefit personally from government expenditures.

The lease dispute appears to have been initiated by the Trump Organization in an attempt to increase the rent on the space occupied by the Secret Service, which was previously occupied by the offices of the Trump Organization. It was not immediately clear whether the Trump Organization wanted to rent the space out at a higher price, or use it to house the Trump Organization once again.

SECURITY RESERVATIONS

Some security experts worry that the relocation could hamper the agency that protects the president’s home and family, while good government advocates point out that the president has not occupied Trump Tower since he was inaugurated. His family lived in the penthouse apartment from January to June of 2017 before moving to Washington, DC. This leaves the Secret Service and New York City police and fire departments maintaining a security blanket around an unoccupied residence.

In an email to The Washington Post, Trump Organization spokesperson Amanda Miller wrote that, “After much consideration, it was mutually determined that it would be more cost effective and logistically practical for the Secret Service to lease space elsewhere,” which reads more like an eviction notice than an invitation to further negotiations.

Indeed, the Secret Service does not appear to have gotten the message. When reached for comment, Secret Service spokesperson Catherine Milhoan told The Washington Post that the agency was still working “to obtain permanent work space in an appropriate location.” According to unnamed sources, Secret Service officials have said the agency is still hoping for space in Trump Tower. Reading between the lines, it appears clear that the Secret Service wants to stay in the Trump Tower, but the Trump Organization clearly doesn’t want them there.

The Secret Service spokesperson also claimed that, “Throughout this process, there has been no impact to the security plan developed by the Secret Service.” This would clearly not be true according to security experts familiar with the emergency plans for presidential protection units. Those protocols require the Secret Service to maintain a zone of protection for the president and his family that would include insuring that the floor immediately below the Trump penthouse could not be used by others seeking to gain access to the penthouse.

General Services Administration spokesperson Pamela Dixon, in an email to reporters at The Washington Post, declined to comment because the search for a command-post space is still active. “The space is still in the process of being obtained and a final decision has not been made.” The GSA handles all leases covering private properties rented by the government.

A PATTERN OF ETHICAL DILEMMAS

On August 4, 2o17, the president will begin a 17-day “working vacation” at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. All told, according to an NBC News report by Andrew Rafferty and Kelly O’Donnell, Trump has spent 58 of his 195 days in office at one of his properties, ranking up additional charges for rooms and other accommodations for the White House, U.S. Military Command, and Secret Service operations. At his current rate, some estimates put the total cost of protecting Donald Trump and his family at more than $1 billion over his four year term.

The fact that Trump has not divested himself of his holdings in the Trump Organization has created a series of questionable transactions between the Trump Organization and the Trump Administration, which sounds like playing both ends against the middle….with the middle being the American tax payer.

In this case, the Secret Service, as a branch of the federal government, is being forced to do business with the Trump Organization at the Trump Tower in New York City, the Mar- a-Lago result in Palm Beach, Florida and other Trump properties where the president and his retinue have traveled since he took office. In each of those situations, the Trump Organization has charged the Secret Service for the cost of the space needed to protect the president.

The ethics of the Trump administration have been cast into doubt by his acceptance of lavish gifts from foreign powers, which custom dictates be turned over to the Gift Office within the Office of the Chief of Protocol and stored in the National Archives. During a recent state visit to Saudi Arabia, the king of that country gifted Trump with more than $1.2 billion worth of trinkets, including the world’s tallest private yacht. Traditionally, presidents have had the option of purchasing gifts made to them by foreign governments at their fair market value, but they are not actually legally required to turn those gifts over to the National Archives. The latest summary of presidential gifts is two years old, so it is difficult to determine what Trump has turned over to the government.

DOUBLE DIPPING?

Concerns have also been raised over Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Trump obtained a long-term lease on the former Old Post Office building in 2013, which he then renovated into a self-styled “five-star” hotel amid allegations that his lease agreement paid the government much less than other bidders would have paid. After the hotel opened in 2016, there were reports that much of the fit and finish of the hotel did not come up to what people would expect from a “five star” hotel.

A review in Vanity Fair described the hotel as grand on the outside, a complete disaster and “a frightful dump” on the inside. In December 2016, Luxury Travel Intelligence reviewed the Trump Hotel and found major shortcomings in its service and operations, calling the decor “garish”, and advising that the property was not suitable for more discerning business and leisure travelers. That review ranked it as the third worst “best” hotel in the world.

The hotel fell far short of its booking goals until after Trump was elected, at which point bookings increased dramatically. In response to charges from critics that Trump was benefiting personally from booking by representatives of foreign governments and corporations seeking to curry favor with the new president by staying at his hotel, Trump responded by depositing the payments from foreign guests into an account with the Treasury Department. He also placed his interest in the hotel into a trust directed by his children, several of whom are also in his presidential administration.

Walter M. Shaub, then Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, reportedly said that “the plan does not comport with the tradition of our presidents over the past 40 years” and was at odds with past practice, since “…every president in modern times has taken the strong medicine of divestiture.

THE ROCK AND THE HARD PLACE

The Secret Service treats Trump Tower as the president’s permanent home, and has a full-time detail to protect it. All together, the federal, state and local cost estimates for security services at the Trump Tower vary from a pessimistic $1 million per day to a much more realistic $200,000 per day. Even at the lower figure, it will still run around $73 million a year to provide security for the Trump Tower residence, whether or not the Trumps are actually there. The cost goes up substantially if the president and his family are in residence. The personal security detail costs – part of the traveling White House overhead – would be in addition to the fixed costs of protecting the Trump Tower location.

Experts said the Secret Service will have a presence inside the building if Trump or his family members visit, as their personal security details would remain in close proximity. Other experts said that the lack of a nearby command post could make the situation less safe in an emergency. “It’s a security deficiency that has to be resolved,” according to an unnamed former Secret Service official quoted by the Post article. With the post on the street below, security experts worry that radio transmissions could break up because of the distance and multiple walls between agents on the scene and commanders in the trailer.

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Copyright 2017 Tellus News Digests