DeFazio: Investigate FBI headquarter move

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Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio Statement,

The Chairs of four House Committees and Subcommittees issued the following statement in response to the announcement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) that it has opened a new investigation into the Trump Administration’s abrupt decision to abandon the long-planned project to move the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from its current site in Washington, D.C. to a suburban location and instead pursue a more costly plan to keep the current location, demolish the existing J. Edgar Hoover (JEH) building, and construct a new facility on the same site:

“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.  We welcome the IG’s independent examination, which will supplement our ongoing effort to get to the truth.”

Chairman Elijah E. Cummings of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Chairman Peter DeFazio of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Chairman Gerald E. Connolly of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Chairwoman Dina Titus of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management issued today’s statement.

The Chairs sent the DOJ Inspector General a letter on May 17, 2019, requesting a detailed examination of the decision-making behind the abrupt cancellation and the plans for a new FBI headquarters.

Background

Before becoming President, Trump expressed interest in the FBI headquarters moving out of Washington, D.C. so he could acquire the land and redevelop the property.  After being sworn in as President—and becoming ineligible as a federal employee to obtain the property—he reportedly became “dead opposed” to the government selling the property, which would have allowed commercial developers to compete with the Trump Hotel across the street.

In August 2018, the Inspector General for the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a report finding that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray participated in discussions relating to the headquarters project in December 2017 and January 2018, including at least one meeting with President Donald Trump.

Despite the revelation of President Trump’s involvement, GSA and FBI officials have maintained that the decision to remain in Washington, D.C. was made by the FBI alone:

  • On April 4, 2019, FBI Director Wray testified before Congress that “It is absolutely the FBI’s view, the FBI’s choice, the FBI’s preference to build a new building … at our current location.”
  • On March 13, 2019, GSA Administrator Murphy testified that “the senior leadership of the FBI made the decision to remain at the current Pennsylvania Avenue location.”  During her testimony, Administrator Murphy referenced a February 8, 2019, letter to GSA from the FBI which stated, “After careful consideration, the FBI decided that demolishing and rebuilding the Pennsylvania Avenue facility best balanced the equities at stake for the organization.”
  • On June 27, 2019, FBI Assistant Director Tyson testified before the Government Operations Subcommittee that “that the decision [to remain at the current location] was in fact made by Director Wray. … [T]he Director has said repeatedly that the decision was his.”

According to the GSA Inspector General, Director Wray reportedly stated that “if the cost savings between a suburban campus site and the existing site were similar,” his “preference was to remain at the JEH building,” but “[i]f the campus scenario offered significant savings,” he was “not opposed to a suburban campus site.”

The GSA Inspector General’s projections, however, suggest the new proposal to rebuild the existing Pennsylvania Avenue facility could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the long-term relocation plan, and it would accommodate 2,306 fewer employees.

Click here to read the letter from the DOJ IG