Another week brings yet another questionable spending report from inside the Trump administration. Months after Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt abandoned his post in the face of allegations of using his job for personal gain, there’s a new report in The New York Times explaining that the State Department spent over $50,000 on curtains for Nikki Haley. (The cost was $52,701, to be exact.)
The former South Carolina governor serves as the Trump administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, and the curtains — and their accompanying mechanized opening and closing system — were for her official residence in New York City.
The spending is eyecatching in part because the curtains went up during a period of intense financial strain for the department. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had frozen hiring altogether while at the same time pushing a number of officials out, and he’d proposed slashing the department’s budget as a whole by nearly one-third. He was — at least in that respect — functioning as an extension of the West Wing, which has often lashed out at spending by key agencies — while promoting spending for pet projects like a border wall.
Obama administration official Brett Bruen quipped:
‘How can you, on the one hand, tell diplomats that basic needs can not be met, and on the other hand, spend more than $50,000 on a customized curtain system for the ambassador to the U.N.?’
The State Department insisted — for now at least — that Haley had nothing to do with the purchase, which had supposedly been set in motion under the Obama administration when the residence was first secured. The newly established ambassador to the U.N. residence is a full floor penthouse in a building on First Avenue; it follows an older tradition of housing the U.N. ambassador in the Waldorf Astoria hotel, which was abandoned due to security concerns.
The spending itself follows repeated concern involving other Trump administration officials over spending. Former EPA Administrator Pruitt infamously spent tens of thousands of dollars on a soundproof phone booth for his office — that he’s only reported so far to have used once! Currently serving Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson also drew scrutiny for the purchase of a $31,000 dining set.
The spending is a part of the Trump administration’s broader corruption, which includes aspects like the Russia scandal. On that front, this week, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was reported to be exploring options for a plea deal ahead of a second trial. His first, in Virginia recently, ended with him convicted on eight counts of fraud, so Special Counsel Robert Mueller has shown he can bring a compelling case.
Trump has, in the face of all of this, insisted that everything is getting along just fine. He told Fox reporter Pete Hegseth at one point:
‘We have a lot of love in the administration. The White House is truly, as you would say, a well-oiled machine. It is working so well.’
In reality, it’s facing losing its majority in at least one if not both houses of Congress later this year. Increased Democratic control will mean more investigation of out of control behavior inside the Trump administration — like, possibly, spending more than $50,000 on curtains.
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