Congressional Democrats are demanding answers about President Donald Trump’s personal intervention to prevent the FBI from re-locating away from its current Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters — therefore preventing a potential wave of commercial development a block away from Trump International Hotel.
“New documents provided to the Oversight Committee show that President Trump and top White House officials intervened directly to reverse the long-term plan to relocate the FBI headquarters and prevent Trump Hotel competitors from developing the property,” the Democratic ranking members of several House committees and subcommittees wrote to Emily Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA).
The initial details of this scandal were uncovered in an August report from the GSA’s inspector general: The agency was originally planning on building a new, suburban FBI headquarters in either Maryland or Virginia — and leaving the crumbling, crowded J. Edgar Hoover building behind — until Trump got involved.
The inspector general found that Murphy failed to tell Congress that she’d met with Trump personally in the Oval Office before the sudden change of course. Murphy’s testimony, the inspector general found, “was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with White House officials in the decision-making process about the project.”
The new documents Democrats published Thursday make Trump’s involvement even more clear.
For example, a few days after the Jan. 24 Oval Office meeting that Murphy failed to mention to Congress, the FBI’s chief financial officer wrote to the GSA’s public building service commissioner, Dan Matthews, to tell him: “gsa and fbi are working closer now than at any time before. Both teams are closely aligned, and now that we have a direction from WH that will continue to tighten relationship forward.”
A day later, the GSA chief of staff wrote to Matthews, noting that a written summary of the White House meeting “ideally … would first recap the oval meeting with what POTUS directed everyone to do.”
Another communication published Thursday, between Murphy’s chief of staff and the GSA’s legislative affairs office, read: “GSA is going to hold our ground on the funding source and that it is a demolition/new construction per the President’s instructions.”
Perhaps even more telling about Trump’s motivations: The President has done his own about-face on the FBI building.
In 2013, when the FBI appeared dead set on moving out of D.C. and handing over the Hoover building address for commercial development, Trump seemed eager to take advantage of the opportunity.
“What he wanted to talk to me about was the F.B.I. project,” Dorothy Robyn, the GSA’s public building service commissioner at the time, told the New York Times Thursday. “He was very interested in the F.B.I. project. He was intrigued by it. He was excited by it.”
That changed when Trump won the Presidency. Suddenly, he wanted to keep the FBI right where it was, preventing any commercial development. “This is a great address,” Axios reported in July that Trump had said. “They need to stay there. But it needs a total revamp.”
The Democrats noted in their letter: “After Donald Trump was elected, he lost his ability to bid on the FBI property.”
Read Democrats full letter below: