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

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

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerThe Trump economy keeps roaring ahead Trump says no discussion of extending deadline in Chinese trade talks McConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack 'proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace' Conservation remains a core conservative principle 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. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion 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 PruittOil execs boasted of 'unprecedented access' to Trump officials: report Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election EPA pushes forward plan to increase ethanol mix in gasoline MORE violated the law with a $43,000 "privacy booth" in his suite.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHousing and health care go hand-in-hand Carson's calendar includes trips to Florida on Fridays: report The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege 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.