Virginia Rep. Calls For Hearings After IG Report Concludes GSA Misled Congress On FBI HQ Plan
The General Services Administration may have misled Congress about President Donald Trump's involvement in the FBI headquarters project and vastly underestimated the cost of its plan, a new watchdog report finds.
The GSA Inspector General Tuesday released a report, requested in February by Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, assessing the government's decision to scrap the search for a new suburban FBI campus and redevelop the headquarters on its Pennsylvania Avenue site.
The Inspector General said it found GSA emails and photographs showing that Murphy, FBI Director Christopher Wray and others met with Trump and his top aides in the Oval Office Jan. 24 to discuss the FBI headquarters project. Those emails said the meeting resulted in a "decision or direction" to move forward with the redevelopment at the J. Edgar Hoover Building site.
Following the White House meeting, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy was asked during a congressional hearing whether Trump had any involvement in the decision-making process. She responded by saying the decision was made by the GSA and the FBI working with the Office of Management and Budget, and did not disclose any conversations with Trump.
Murphy's private counsel told the IG she was not authorized to discuss communications with the president, but the report states she was authorized to disclose the existence of White House meetings. In response to questioning from the IG, Murphy described the meeting as "back and forth" with "free flow discussion."
"We found that Administrator Murphy's testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on April 17, 2018 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 IG report said in its conclusion.
In addition to potentially misleading Congress about the decision-making process, the IG report found the GSA may have released an incorrect cost estimation. The costs it omitted may have created the false impression that the redevelopment project would be cheaper than a relocation.
The GSA estimated its plan to demolish the Hoover Building and rebuild a new FBI headquarters on the site would cost $3.3B, less than the estimated $3.6B plan to exchange the site with a developer for a new campus in the D.C. suburbs. But the IG report found the GSA underestimated the cost of its redevelopment plan by $516M and it should have released a cost estimate of $3.8B, which would have been costlier than the relocation.
"Our review found that GSA did not include all of the costs in its Revised FBI Headquarters Plan, and that the JEH demolish and rebuild plan would cost more than the cancelled JEH exchange," the report said.
In response to the report, Connolly called for further congressional investigation of the FBI headquarters decision.
"This IG report is only the beginning," Connolly said in a release. "We must develop a comprehensive understanding of the President's involvement in this procurement and what it has cost the United States in terms of both national security and taxpayer dollars. I am calling on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to convene immediate hearings on this matter and to subpoena any GSA officials who are suspected of misleading Congress."