White House officials, including President Trump, met with top officials from the FBI and General Services Administration (GSA) before the GSA’s announcement in February that the FBI headquarters would remain in Washington, D.C., according to a new watchdog report.
The report by the GSA’s inspector general (IG) found that top members of the agency might have misled Congress over the amount of influence the White House yielded over their decision to keep the FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The report is the latest fuel to ongoing speculation over Trump’s reported “obsession” with the location of the FBI headquarters. Several Democratic lawmakers have stated they believe Trump wants to keep the headquarters in its current place because Trump International Hotel is nearby.
The GSA in February said they would keep the FBI headquarters in the nation’s capital rather than moving it elsewhere, despite recommendations that have indicated it would be more secure in another location. When explaining the decision, the GSA said it was most cost-effective to keep it in D.C., but the new inspector general report indicates that option would actually be more costly.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who requested the GSA inspector general report, on Monday released a statement saying the report proves Trump was involved.
“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 the 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.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also weighed in, quoting the report’s assertion that Trump attended “previously undisclosed” meetings with GSA officials.
Just in: Despite efforts by the Administration to dodge the truth, @GSA_OIG sent us a report confirming that Trump was in previously undisclosed meetings about the relocation of the FBI HQ. And despite telling Congress the plan changed to save money, the numbers don’t add up.
The Trump Hotel is across the street from the current FBI HQ. Trump will benefit financially from this new plan to keep the FBI where it is and not redevelop it into commercial space. Yet GSA and FBI refused to answer when asked if he was involved in this decision. Why?
The IG report found that GSA did not include all of the costs in its plan for a renovated FBI headquarters, and also indicates GSA Administrator Emily Murphy’s testimony before Congress was incomplete.
The report found that Murphy met with multiple people in the Oval Office in January regarding the FBI headquarters, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and White House chief of staff John Kelly.
The GSA responded to the report with a rejection of its core assertions, saying it misrepresents Murphy’s testimony, fails to mention several key meetings and miscalculates the cost of razing the FBI headquarters.
“The FBI made the decision to keep its headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue,” the GSA statement says. “GSA is unaware of any White House involvement in the FBI’s decision. Further, GSA stands by the cost analysis in its revised plan, as those numbers are accurate, transparent, and more representative of the full costs of the project than the analysis put forth in the IG review.”
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) said the IG report confirms what he “long suspected”: that the White House has been abnormally involved in the plans.
“The GSA Office of Inspector General’s review of the revised plan for the FBI headquarters consolidation project confirms what I long suspected: heavy-handed involvement by the White House; faulty and misleading analysis of President Trump’s preference to keep the FBI in its old crumbling facility; and, a nefarious lack of transparency and accountability with Congress,” Brown said in a statement.
“The OIG’s review raises serious concerns that President Trump has politicized this national security project in a way that hurts the men and women of the FBI — an agency he has long attacked — and protects his bottom line,” he added.
BY EMILY BIRNBAUM – 08/27/18