Trump more involved in blocking FBI HQ sale than initially thought: Dems
President Trump was more directly involved in canceling plans to sell the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., than Congress was previously aware of, House Democrats alleged on Thursday.
They pointed to new documents they say suggest a more expensive proposal to rebuild the headquarters in D.C. instead of relocating to the suburbs was approved during an Oval Office meeting with Trump and General Services Administration (GSA) officials on Jan. 24.
The documents, released by the House Democrats on Thursday, include a picture of the meeting in question and emails that describe the project as what “the president wants” and “what POTUS directed everyone to do.” GSA officials are also quoted in emails saying that they were operating “per the President’s instructions.”
The GSA had long debated whether to demolish the FBI’s aging J. Edgar Hoover Building in D.C. and let a commercial developer come in to build something new, which would allow the FBI to relocate its headquarters to the Washington suburbs.
Critics argue that Trump wanted to prevent commercial developers from building a new property that would compete with the Trump Hotel, which is located across the street from the FBI headquarters. The administration has maintained that it was the FBI’s decision to remain closer to the Department of Justice.
Now, after obtaining the new batch of documents, Democrats say GSA Administrator Emily Murphy misled lawmakers about Trump’s role in the decisionmaking process.
Murphy testified in front of Congress earlier this year about the FBI project, but did not mention meeting with Trump to discuss the FBI headquarters project. An inspector general report released in August called her testimony “incomplete.”
“New documents provided to the Oversight Committee indicate that President Trump met personally with you, the FBI, and White House officials on January 24, 2018, where he was directly involved with the decision to abandon the long-term relocation plan and instead move ahead with the more expensive proposal to construct a new building on the same site, and thereby prevent Trump Hotel competitors from acquiring the land,” the letter states.
The letter is signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), the ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It is also signed by Reps. Gerry Connolly (Va.), Mike Quigley (Ill.), and Dina Titus (Nev.), who are all the top Democrats on key subcommittees.
The group is now seeking more documents from GSA on Trump’s role in the project.
Tougher oversight of Trump’s business dealings and exploring his potential conflicts of interest will be a top priority for Democrats if they win back the House.
“Given this background, President Trump should have avoided all interactions or communications relating to the FBI headquarters project to prevent both real and perceived conflicts of interest,” the lawmakers wrote. “He should not have played any role in a determination that bears directly on his own financial interests with the Trump Hotel. The GSA also should have taken steps to wall off the decision from improper influence.”
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