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Justice Department watchdog to investigate decision to cancel FBI headquarters plan



plans a decade in the making to move its headquarters to the Washington suburbs, he told Congress in a letter Tuesday.

The inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, customs House committee leaders that he is initiating a review of actions at the DOJ and FBI that led to the canceling of the plans in favor of building a smaller replacement for the J. Edgar Hoover Building downtown and dispersing other FBI staff elsewhere.

The review could produce new revelations about the trump administration's stunning reversal or bipartisan plans for the development of a new, highly secure campus that would have given the office the fast-deteriorating Hoover building.

Democratic leaders of two committees, Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) And Gerald E. Connolly (Va.) Of the Oversight Committee and Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.) And Dina Titus (Nev.) Of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have pressured Horowitz to investigate. They redoubled their efforts after the head of the General Services Administration was found by her agency's inspector general to have misled Congress about the White House's involvement in the decision-making.

Democrats allege that Trump used the decision to put his own financial interests ahead of the needs of the FBI and taxpayers, which administration officials deny. The GSA is the landlord to Trump's D.C. hotel, located just down the street from the Hoover building, and redeveloping the Hoover site could introduce a new hotel competitor. Trump also told The Washington Post before running for office that he was considering bidding for the FBI project as well.

Under Trump, the FBI and GSA have both been responding to document requests made by Democrats on the Hill.

" 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 had key decision-making documents from Congress, we have been left with many unanswered questions, ” In April, testimony to Congress, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray defended the decision to keep the headquarters in downtown Washington and reaffirmed it as his preference. “It is absolutely the FBI's view, the FBI's choice, the FBI's preference to build and new building. . . at our current location, "he said.

For a decade before Trump's election, the FBI had been working with the GSA and Congress on the suburban headquarters plan. The FBI and GSA pursued large plots of land near the Capital Beltway and suburban Metro stations, ultimately narrowing its search to sites in Greenbelt and Landover in Maryland and Springfield, Va. [19659012] But six months into the Trump administration, the FBI and GSA ditched those plans and announced they wanted to keep a smaller downtown headquarters and move 2,300 headquarters staff members out of the Washington area altogether – to Alabama, Idaho and West Virginia. ] GSA chief Emily Murphy testified that Wray – not Trump or White House official – asked that the FBI remain downtown if possible, downplaying any White House role in the decision-making.

The FBI backed her assertion, but the inspector general found that Murphy misled Congress about the White House's involvement, including an Oval Office meeting with Trump about the project that she omitted. Murphy denied misleading Congress, that the decision about where to put the FBI was made before that meeting

The GSA maintains that the government could see cost savings under the new plan, but federal real estate experts said the government's expectations of cost savings are likely to come true based on unrealistic expectations on the administration's part about how little its plan will cost. The GSA inspector general found that the Trump administration plan could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more and accommodate 2,300 fewer employees.


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