Questions about presidential conflicts of interest resurfaced Wednesday after a Pentagon announcement that it's looking into leasing space in Trump Tower, the New York Times reports. DOD spokesman Lt. Col. JB Brindle said in a statement that, to "meet official mission requirements," it may be necessary to lock down a "limited amount of space" in the New York City building. President Trump's wife, Melania, and 10-year-old son, Barron, still reside at Trump Tower, and ABC News notes the president has suggested he'll spend weekends there. Trump has "personnel and equipment" he needs at the tower to support his presidential duties, per Brindle, including the military staff responsible for keeping the "nuclear football" (the bag with the instructions and codes to OK a nuclear strike) close to Trump, CNN notes.
Brindle assures that the department would work through "appropriate channels" to make the lease legal. A worker for the company that rents commercial space in the tower tells CNN that floors available for rent run about $1.5 million a year. Similar space arrangements have been made for other presidents, including in Chicago for former President Obama, but the difference is that the Trump Organization, which owns Trump Tower, would be profiting from taxpayer dollars. "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," Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, tells the Chicago Tribune, adding he thinks Trump should offer a "very limited amount of space" free and let the DOD rent other space in non-Trump-owned properties. (A look at potential Trump conflicts of interest all around the globe.)