A Government Services Administration (GSA) inspector general report on Monday detailed that President Donald Trump was much more involved in the debate over a new FBI headquarters than Congress was originally told.
GSA officials may not have exactly been forthright with some answers to a congressional committee, according to the report, which also says the officials misrepresented the costs of their plan to replace the FBI’s current headquarters, which sits across the street from Trump’s Washington, DC, hotel.
Those officials made a replacement plan involving a new downtown headquarters for the agency sound like a less-expensive option than the prior plan, when in fact the opposite was true, The Washington Post reported.
The report states that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy met with Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly, and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in two January meetings.
Then in a House hearing months later, Murphy answered a question on whether Trump or anyone in his administration was involved in discussions about a new FBI headquarters by saying that the “direction that we got came from the FBI.”
“It was the FBI that directed to GSA as to what its requirements would be,” she said. “We obviously did coordinate, given that it is a substantial budget request, we coordinated that request with OMB to provide for funding but the requirements were generated by the FBI.”
The agency, meanwhile, said Murphy wasn’t talking about the bigger-picture conversations about the project, but merely discussions about where the headquarters would be located.
The report followed reporting last month by The Post and Axios that detailed how Trump took a huge interest in the project. The Post reported that Trump became “become personally involved in plotting a new FBI headquarters in downtown Washington, an interest that for now has left the project in limbo and the agency stranded in a building that no longer suits its needs, according to officials and people familiar with the administration’s deliberations.”
Last year, federal officials decided on three possible locations for a new headquarters in either Maryland or Virginia, and Congress approved nearly $1 billion in funding for the project, The Post reported.
“Six months after Trump entered the White House, his administration abandoned the plan, and it proposed in February that the government build a smaller headquarters to replace the Hoover building in downtown DC and move 2,300 other FBI staffers out of the Washington area altogether, to Alabama, Idaho and West Virginia,” The Post reported. “At the time, the decision baffled real estate experts and some members of Congress.”
The Post reported that the replacement plan came about after Trump took interest in the project. Sources told the publication that Trump was “dead opposed” to plans to move the headquarters out of DC and into Maryland or Virginia.
At the time, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The Post that Trump was “interested in making sure taxpayer dollars spent on new buildings are being spent wisely and appropriately.”
“He has been a builder all of his life and it should come as no surprise he wants to take the skills and great success he had in the private sector and apply it here,” Sanders added in a statement.
A source told Axios that Trump was treating the FBI project as if it were one being carried out by the Trump Organization.
Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia requested the GSA inspector general report.
“When we began this investigation, the prospect that President Trump was personally involved in the government-led redevelopment of a property in close proximity to the Trump Hotel was dismissed as a conspiracy theory,” Connolly said in a statement. “Now, the president’s involvement in this multi-billion-dollar government procurement which will directly impact his bottom line has been confirmed by the White House Press Secretary and government photographs.”