Trump says Republicans criticizing FBI money should ‘go back to school and learn’
President Trump on Wednesday dismissed Republican criticism of his push for the inclusion of funding for a new FBI building in the next coronavirus relief package, saying GOP senators should “go back to school and learn.”
“They have been trying to build a new building for many, many years,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he was departing for a trip to Texas on Wednesday morning.
Trump said proposals to move the FBI building to Maryland or Virginia would have taken the bureau too far away from the Justice Department in downtown Washington, D.C.
“We have that in the bill. It should stay. People have wanted a new FBI building now for 15 or 20 years,” Trump said.
Asked about GOP lawmakers opposing the measure, Trump replied: “Then Republicans should go back to school and learn. We need a new building.”
The Trump administration pushed to include $1.75 billion in funding for a new FBI headquarters in downtown D.C. in the GOP coronavirus relief proposal unveiled Monday, prompting criticism from some Senate Republicans.
Asked Wednesday about Trump’s comments, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said senators were surprised the funding for building was in the bill and largely didn’t support its inclusion.
“I think it came as a surprise to a lot of people that the funding for the FBI building was in the bill. They’d have to make a better argument than what I’ve seen so far. I don’t think there’s a lot of support from our members for issues in the bill that are not directly related to the coronavirus,” he told reporters.
Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he wanted the funding removed from the relief package, saying he was opposed to the inclusion of “non-germane amendments” in the relief measure.
“When we get to the end of the process, I would hope all of the non-COVID-related measures are out, no matter what bill they were in at the start,” McConnell told reporters.
Democrats have accused Trump of wanting to renovate the existing J. Edgar Hoover building, which is across the street from his D.C. hotel, in order to prevent another commercial development from being erected on the plot of land.
The project was subject to increased congressional scrutiny after House Democrats obtained documents revealing Trump’s involvement in the project before the administration halted plans to relocate the headquarters to a suburban location that would have cost less money.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Monday evening that Trump wants to rebuild the FBI headquarters “so that nobody could build a hotel across the street” from his D.C. property, the Trump International Hotel.
Trump’s remarks to reporters on Wednesday come as the White House is negotiating with congressional Democrats in hopes of reaching a deal on the next stimulus package. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is leading negotiations on behalf of the White House, told reporters alongside Trump Wednesday that the two sides remain “very far apart” on reaching an agreement.
Updated at 11:55 a.m.