Trump budget includes no new money for FBI headquarters

Trump budget includes no new money for FBI headquarters
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The Trump administration is not asking Congress for any funds to build a new FBI headquarters building, despite past funding proposals asking for billions for the construction project.

“There is not new money for the FBI headquarters,” Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus told reporters Monday during a briefing on the Justice Department’s fiscal 2020 budget request.

Lofthus noted that the project is "still under discussion" within the administration but suggested it would not ask for more funds from Congress until a decision is made on the plans for a new or a refurbished headquarters. 

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The FBI project has become subject to increased scrutiny from congressional Democrats in the wake of revelations about President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s involvement in plans to relocate the bureau’s headquarters. The Trump administration halted plans to relocate the headquarters to a suburban location in favor of rebuilding at the existing location in downtown Washington, D.C. 

Trump's 2019 budget proposal requested an additional $2.175 billion in infrastructure costs to pay for the construction of a new FBI headquarters. Justice Department officials had put the total price tag of the new headquarters at $3.3 billion.

House Democrats obtained internal government documents last fall that they argued showed Trump was more personally involved in the project than previously known. And now, with control of the House, Democrats plan to investigate Trump's involvement in the plans. 

Democrats have raised conflict of interest concerns, suggesting Trump may have intervened in order to prevent another commercial development from being erected on the plot of land that holds the current J. Edgar Hoover building, which is located across the street from Trump International Hotel in Washington.

The documents released last year showed Trump met with FBI and White House officials in January 2019 about the project and suggested he “directed” officials to abandon plans to move the headquarters and instead plan to demolish and reconstruct the building on the current grounds. 

“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,” Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsGOP Oversight report says Interior head met with group tied to former clients Nadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision Nikki Haley voices 'complete support' for Pence MORE (Md.), the top Democrat on the then-Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and other top Democrats wrote in an Oct. 18, 2018, letter to the General Services Administration (GSA).

At the time, the White House said the Democrats had it wrong, claiming Trump wanted to save the government money and that FBI leaders did not want to move their headquarters from downtown D.C. The GSA also said the emails cited in the letter were taken out of context.

Last week, the Democratic chairs of five House committees accused the administration of slow-walking a subsequent request for documents related to their burgeoning investigation — one of several the Trump administration is contending with from the Democratic-held Congress. 

Cummings and other Democrats sent a follow-up to the GSA last Wednesday, saying officials had offered “woefully inadequate” responses to subsequent document requests related to the FBI headquarters plans. The Democrats also wrote to the Justice Department and FBI asking for internal communications and other materials for their ongoing investigation into the plans.