President Donald Trump was more intimately involved in the debate over relocating the FBI headquarters than Congress was told, a new inspector general report finds.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat representing parts of Northern Virginia, said the report he requested from the General Services Administration IG confirmed his suspicions that the president was involved in the decision to scrap plans to vacate the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, and move the agency to a campus location in either the Maryland or Virginia suburbs.
“When we began this investigation, the prospect that President Trump was personally involved in the government-led redevelopment of a property in close proximity to the Trump Hotel was dismissed as a conspiracy theory,” Connolly said in a statement. “Now, the president’s involvement in this multi-billion-dollar government procurement which will directly impact his bottom line has been confirmed by the White House Press Secretary and government photographs.”
The report criticized as incomplete and potentially misleading congressional testimony to a House Appropriations subcommittee by GSA Administrator Emily Murphy regarding the change of direction.
The exchange in question involved questioning from Rep. Mike Quigley. The Illinois Democrat is the ranking member on the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee.
“Murphy told us that she believed her answers to Representative Quigley were truthful,” the report said. “We agree that her responses were literally true.”
But beyond that, the IG found significant issues with the scope of the testimony, since she did not mention conversations with top Trump administration officials, including the president himself.
“However, we found that because she omitted any mention in her answers of her discussions with [Chief of Staff John] Kelly, [Office of Management and Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney, and the President during the decision-making process for the Revised FBI Headquarters Plan, her testimony was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the President or senior White House officials in the decision-making process about the project,” the Monday report said.
The IG report confirms the existence of direct interaction with Trump about the project.
“Murphy told us that she attended two meetings about the FBI project at the White House on January 24, 2018. The first meeting occurred in Kelly’s office, and immediately preceded the second meeting,” the report said. “The second meeting was in the Oval Office with the President.”
Also at that meeting to update Trump on the decision-making process were Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
In addition to raising more questions about the level of Trump’s personal involvement in a project that could easily affect the value of his nearby hotel at the Old Post Office Building, the IG report casts doubt on cost estimates provided to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee back in February, which suggested that a move to the suburbs would actually be more expensive than rebuilding on the same land.
“The plan shows that the JEH rebuild would cost less and require less additional funding than the JEH exchange,” the report said. “However, we determined that the JEH rebuild will have a higher project cost and require more additional funding than the JEH exchange would have.”
In part, the issue is that the on-site rebuild would involve the relocation of 2,306 FBI employees to other facilities across the country in places such as Huntsville, Alabama, and Pocatello, Idaho. The GSA report indicates those expenses were not properly counted in the proposal presented to the Environment and Public Works Committee.
“The IG review acknowledges an indisputable fact: the Administrator’s congressional testimony was truthful. As the FBI’s representative stated under oath before [EPW], the FBI made the decision to keep its headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. GSA is unaware of any White House involvement in the FBI’s decision,” the GSA said in a statement in response. “Further, GSA stands by the cost analysis in its revised plan, as those numbers are accurate, transparent, and more representative of the full costs of the project than the analysis put forth in the IG review.”
In response to the report, Connolly wants the executive branch to go back to the drawing board.
“Regarding the future of this procurement, we must wipe the slate clean in light of these troubling revelations. The GSA and FBI must return immediately to the plan for a fully consolidated FBI headquarters at one of the sites selected as part of the original procurement,” he said in a statement. “The hardworking men and women of the FBI deserve a functional headquarters without further delay.”
ICYMI: ‘President Did Nothing Wrong,’ Sanders Says