Justice Department's internal watchdog reviewing decision to halt FBI headquarters plan

Justice Department's internal watchdog reviewing decision to halt FBI headquarters plan
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general is launching an inquiry into the FBI’s involvement in the Trump administration's decision to halt plans to move the bureau’s headquarters to a suburban location outside Washington, D.C.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz told House lawmakers in a letter dated Tuesday that his office is “initiating a review that will assess the DOJ’s and FBI’s planning for a future FBI Headquarters facility,” including their assessment of and consideration of a plan to move the headquarters outside the nation's capital.

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The issue has come under scrutiny from congressional Democrats after revelations about President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE’s involvement in the relocation plans.

The administration scrapped plans dating back almost 10 years to relocate FBI headquarters to a suburban location in favor of rebuilding at the agency's current location, which is across the street from Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington.

Democrats have suggested Trump may have gotten involved in the plans to prevent a commercial development from replacing the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover building.

“For months, our Committees have investigated the Administration’s sudden change of heart on a federal property across the street from the President’s namesake hotel, but because the FBI has withheld key decision-making documents from Congress, we have been left with many unanswered questions,” four House Democratic chairmen said in a statement Wednesday. “We welcome the IG’s independent examination, which will supplement our ongoing effort to get to the truth.”

The inspector general’s review is likely to produce more information about the administration’s abrupt reversal of the plans. The General Services Administration (GSA) and FBI had been working for years on efforts to build new headquarters in neighboring Maryland or Virginia, but they reversed course in 2017 to pursue rebuilding at the current location.

Administration officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, have told Congress that it was the FBI’s preference to construct a new building at the current location.

A GSA inspector general report issued in August showed that Wray and other officials met with Trump at least once about the headquarters proposal. It also projected the proposed rebuild could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than moving forward with the long-term relocation plan.

Horowitz wrote in the letter Tuesday that his review “will include an examination of DOJ’s and the FBI’s progress in its planning, their assessment and consideration of the previously proposed plan to move FBI Headquarters to a suburban location, and their assessment and consideration of the plan to demolish the J. Edgar Hoover Building and construct a new facility on that site.”

The administration’s latest fiscal 2020 budget proposal requested no new money for the FBI headquarters project, with a Justice Department official telling reporters in March that the project is “still under discussion” within the administration.