US trade rep spent nearly $1M to furnish offices: report

US trade rep spent nearly $1M to furnish offices: report
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U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerChinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead Trump says no discussion of extending deadline in Chinese trade talks MORE spent nearly $1 million to furnish two trade offices, according to a Tuesday report from the New York Post.

In a statement to the Post, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the $917,000 in furniture purchases were part of a plan devised under the Obama administration in order to replace aging pieces.

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Fred Ames, the assistant trade representative for administration, said the plans have been underway since before 2014, and have been overseen by career staff at the Trade Representative's Office.

"The investments are the culmination of a long-range, planned project that began before 2014 to install wall systems in work spaces and replace two-decade-old office furniture in two buildings to achieve improved functionality and gain much-needed additional office space," Ames said in a statement.

"Ambassador Lighthizer did not direct these expenditures, which were planned and executed consistent with career staff’s spending authority," Ames added. "All furnishings were acquired through Executive Office of the President contracting procedures. In my opinion as a senior career official responsible for developing and implementing this project, these funds were critical for continuing to execute effectively USTR’s mission."

Former Obama administration officials told the Post, however, that they never signed off on the plan to remodel the offices, with one former aide telling the news outlet that such a claim is "laughable."

Among the purchases made, according to the Post, were 60 sit-stand desks for $18,500; moveable wooden wall systems that came in around $290,000; and 90 office chairs that cost $54,000.

The largest sum was paid to Washington, D.C.-based Executive Furniture, which received around $475,000. 

Two of the companies contracted for the remodeling plan told the Post that the offices were in need of upgrades, and that the contracts were in place before President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump averages highest approval rating of his presidency in second quarter: Gallup GOP House campaign chair condemns 'send her back' chants: 'There's no place for that kind of talk' GOP lawmaker decries 'send her back' chants: 'This ugliness must end' MORE took office.

Another contractor, GovSolutions Inc., told the Post that the contract was new, and thanked the administration for "supporting small business."

The nearly $1 million in spending surpasses that of former President Obama's two trade representatives.

Ron Kirk, who held the post from 2009 until 2013, spent $237,000 on office furniture in his first 15 months on the job. Kirk's successor, Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks US trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report MORE, spent $151,000 on office furniture in a comparable time span, according to the Post.

Lighthizer is the latest in a string of Trump administration officials to come under scrutiny for his spending on furniture or travel. 

On Monday, the Government Accountability Office said Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade Democrats, scientists slam Trump administration actions on scientific boards Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits MORE violated the law with a $43,000 "privacy booth" in his suite.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week Harris, Ocasio-Cortez pitch bill to increase housing assistance for individuals with criminal record MORE came under fire earlier this year after it was revealed that he had ordered a dining set for his office costing more than $31,000. He said last month he would cancel that order.

Updated on April 18 at 9:24 a.m.