05:31 GMT +324 October 2017
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    US Secret Service Booted From Trump Tower Over Lease Disagreement

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    The US Secret Service has been forced from their command post in Trump Tower in Manhattan after a dispute between the federal government and the Trump Organization over the terms of a lease for the space.

    A statement from a Trump Organization spokeswoman has made it seem improbable that the Secret Service will ever reclaim their command post atop the 58-story tower. "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," spokeswoman Amanda Miller wrote in an email statement.

    The service had a different take on the events. Catherine Milhoan, a Secret Service spokeswoman, said on Thursday that they were trying "to obtain permanent work space in an appropriate location."

    "Throughout this process, there has been no impact to the security plan developed by the Secret Service," she later added, contradicting her earlier statement.

    Thickening the plot, the General Services Administration (GSA) refused to comment because they are still searching for a permanent residence for the Secret Service's Trump Tower location. "The space is still in the process of being obtained and a final decision has not been made," spokeswoman Pamela Dixon wrote in an email. The GSA handles all federal government leasings.

    Because US President Donald Trump's family frequently travels to New York City to stay in his quarters at Trump Tower, the Secret Service decided to create a permanent command post on the floor beneath the presidential apartments.

    But in early July, the Secret Service packed their things and left the high-rise, setting up a new command post in a trailer outside. With over 50 floors separating the Secret Service officers from "Mogul" (Trump's all-too-fitting code name) and his family, security experts have expressed concerns that the Trumps may be vulnerable when staying in the Midtown building.

    Neither organization has been forthcoming about the details of the lease dispute, but anonymous sources cited by The Hill claimed that the price was the main sticking point. A lease in a famous building like Trump Tower runs steep: apartments for sale in the building currently go for between $2 million and $11 million. 

    Evidently, the GSA and the Secret Service were unhappy with the price The Trump Organization was charging.

    Trump himself has not been to Trump Tower since he was inaugurated, but his wife Melania and their young son Barron lived there until June so Barron could finish his school year before moving. However, the Secret Service still treats Trump Tower as a permanent residence of the president, which means it requires a permanent security detail.

    Speaking to Stripes, a former Secret Service agent said that the lack of an immediate command post could prove a major security challenge. "It's a security deficiency that has to be resolved," said the agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's like having the quarterback of the football game actually being located in a different stadium than where the game is being played."

    For instance, radio transmissions from the street-level trailer may be distorted or blocked by the tons of brick and steel separating them from the agents directly assigned to a member of the Trump family at the top of the Tower.

    Another US agency rents space in Trump Tower: the White House Military Office (WHMO), which coordinates services such as communications and handling of the "nuclear football" that the president carries on his person at all times in case of the need to launch an emergency nuclear strike.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the WHMO pays $130,000 a month to Joel Anderson, a businessman who owns space in Trump Tower, to rent the space. Anderson told the journal that the government didn't negotiate down from his steep asking price. 

    "It was a standard lease negotiation, like any other, and had all of the same parts. The only thing that made it difficult it is they're bureaucratic, and it takes them forever to do anything," Anderson said. "They're not bad to deal with, they're just slow."

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    Tags:
    lease, General Services Administration, White House Military Office, Trump Organization, Wall Street Journal, US Secret Service, Joel Anderson, Melania Trump, Barron Trump, Donald Trump, Trump Tower, New York City
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