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Newly Released Emails Indicate Trump Ordered The Reversal Of The FBI Headquarters Move

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President Trump's Jan. 24 meeting with GSA Administrator Emily Murphy and other administration officials
President Donald Trump's Jan. 24 meeting with GSA Administrator Emily Murphy and other administration officials

President Donald Trump's apparent involvement in the decision to keep the FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue is coming under increased scrutiny as new internal emails and reports surface. 

Emails between top officials at the General Services Administration, released Thursday by House Democrats, indicate Trump ordered the agency to move forward with the plan to demolish and rebuild the headquarters on the J. Edgar Hoover Building property rather than move the FBI to Washington's suburbs. 

The late January emails discuss a Jan. 24 meeting GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had with Trump and other top administration officials in the Oval Office. In a Jan. 27 email, GSA acting Chief of Staff Brennan Hart told Public Buildings Service Commissioner Dan Mathews that the agency should draft a document recapping "the oval meeting with what POTUS directed everyone to do then ask Emily (GSA) to execute POTUS's orders." 

The following day, Hart emailed GSA legislative staffers describing the orders Trump gave in the meeting and expressing the agency's intention to follow them. 

"GSA is going to hold our ground on the funding source and that it is a demolition/new construction per the presidents instructions," the email read. 

The GSA submitted a report to Congress Feb. 12 that recommended demolishing the Hoover Building and constructing a new FBI headquarters on the site. That followed the GSA's decision in July 2017 to scrap the yearslong procurement process for a new FBI headquarters that had been narrowed down to three sites in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Hoover Building FBI HQ
The FBI's current HQ, the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue

The reversal outraged elected officials in the suburban jurisdictions who saw the new 2M SF campus as a potential economic boon for their constituents. Some District officials also hoped the FBI would leave the Pennsylvania Avenue site to allow for a large mixed-use development that would bring more activity to the corridor. 

A group of House Democrats suggested Trump's close interest stems from the luxury hotel his company opened in 2016 in the Old Post Office Building one block away from the Hoover Building.

“As a direct result of President Trump’s clear conflict of interest on this matter, we are now requesting information and documents to determine whether the President is making decisions about the FBI headquarters building based on what is best for the country or what is best for his own financial bottom-line,” the group of five top Democrats on various committees and subcommittees wrote. 

The same day the emails were released, a New York Times report shed light on the history of Trump's interest in the Hoover Building property. Former Public Buildings Service Commissioner Dorothy Robyn told the Times she met with Trump in 2013 as he was planning the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel, but his main interest in the meeting was the FBI headquarters project. 

The Times also reported that former Trump Organization executive David Orowitz met with a congressional aide in early 2015, ahead of Trump's presidential campaign launch, expressing concern over the potential of a commercial development on the Hoover Building site that could include a hotel in direct competition with the Trump International Hotel. 

The new revelations follow the GSA Inspector General's August report suggesting Murphy may have misled Congress when she failed to disclose the White House meeting during April testimony before a House subcommittee. The report also found the GSA may have released an incorrect cost estimate that omitted certain costs to create the false impression that the redevelopment project would be cheaper than the relocation. 

House Democrats continue to call for more hearings and investigations on Trump's involvement in the FBI headquarters decision. The outcome of their push could hinge on whether or not Democrats take control of the House in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.