Report: Trump 'Obsessed' With FBI Building, Micromanaging Headquarters Project
The FBI headquarters project has been shrouded in controversy for months amid concerns over potential conflicts of interest, and a new report confirms previous suspicions around President Donald Trump's direct involvement.
Trump has ranted about the FBI building in multiple meetings and told Chief of Staff John Kelly he wants to oversee minute details of the project, according to an Axios report confirmed by the White House. The building sits a block away from the Trump International Hotel, a project that has drawn intense scrutiny and been the subject of multiple lawsuits.
The president has expressed strong opposition to plans to move the FBI out of D.C., instead arguing it should stay on Pennsylvania Avenue and be renovated, Axois reported. Trump also reportedly criticized the building's brutalist-style architecture, calling it one of D.C.'s ugliest buildings. He reportedly told Kelly he wants to oversee minute details of the project, from cost per square foot to materials. The White House confirmed that Trump has interest in the issue and has meet with FBI and General Services Administration officials.
The GSA last summer canceled a search that had been narrowed down to three sites in Maryland and Virginia, and in February recommended a redevelopment of the Hoover Building to allow the FBI to remain in place, prompting an outcry from representatives of the suburban jurisdictions. D.C. officials have also said they would like to see the FBI move so the prime Pennsylvania Avenue site could be redeveloped into commercial and residential space.
Top GSA and FBI officials in February declined to answer sharp questions from Congress members about whether Trump directly intervened in the decision to keep the FBI in place. The GSA Inspector General in March launched an investigation of the decision following a request from a Virginia member of Congress.
"His project there on Pennsylvania Avenue is a block away from the Hoover Building, so clearly he is a knowledgeable party when it comes to real estate in that part of the city," said Cushman & Wakefield Vice Chairman Darian LeBlanc, a broker who works on federal government deals. "It's no surprise that he has some strong opinions about what's there and more importantly, what he believes should be there."
Congress has yet to appropriate the necessary funds for the GSA's recommended redevelopment of the Hoover Building. Members of the Maryland delegation have led an effort to block funding for the plan, saying that important questions over security requirements remain unanswered. LeBlanc said the issue is unlikely to be resolved before November's midterm elections, and the outcome of those elections could have a major impact on the FBI project.
"Unfortunately, the FBI may get caught in between the factions, because I think the Democrats are going to say 'look, we don't want you to do anything regarding the FBI,'" LeBlanc said. "The administration has taken an all-or-nothing approach to say 'this is what we want to do, give us the money and if you can't do that we can't do anything.' So it turns into a standoff that's of course 100% dependent on what happens in the midterms."