02:28 - Source: CNN
Emails show Trump opposed to moving FBI HQ
Washington CNN —  

A new General Services Administration report obtained by CNN downplays the importance of a January 2018 Oval Office meeting to discuss the location of a new FBI headquarters in the decision to rebuild the headquarters in Washington rather than move it to a suburban location.

The document, which has been handed over to Congress, says the FBI and GSA’s decision to keep the FBI headquarters at its present address in downtown DC was “effectively settled” before a January 24, 2018 meeting with President Donald Trump. It was written by the GSA in response to questions from several Democratic chairman of House committees who had raised concerns about the decision.

Democrats are interested in the White House’s role in the decision because the alternative option of relocating the FBI headquarters to a suburban DC location called for selling the prime downtown property it currently occupies across from the Trump International Hotel.

Renovating the existing J. Edgar Hoover building or rebuilding on the same site “prevent(s) Trump Hotel competitors from acquiring the land,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, who is now chairman of the House Oversight Committee, wrote in an October letter.

The document’s release comes ahead of scheduled testimony by the GSA administrator, Emily Murphy, before a House committee on Wednesday.

An August inspector general report concluded Murphy provided “incomplete” testimony to Congress when asked whether the President or the White House had been involved in the decision. She “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,” according to the watchdog.

The new GSA document, while acknowledging the White House meeting took place, downplays its importance in the decision-making process.

“Contrary to the suggestions contained in your letter, as well as the GSA Office of Inspector General’s August 27, 2018 report titled Review of GSA’s Revised Plan for the Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters Consolidation Project (IG report), FBI actively was communicating to GSA its strong preference to remain located on its current JEH site prior to any communications with the White House,” the report reads. “Conversations between GSA and FBI project teams in Fall 2017 focused around the concept of a smaller FBI Headquarters campus. However, other input received by GSA from FBI between October and December 2017 increasingly indicated an FBI preference to remain at its current location.”

At the January White House meeting, the President was informed “that a decision had been reached to demolish JEH and to rebuild a new FBI Headquarters at its current location. As noted in the IG report, the conversation in the briefing with the President centered on appropriations challenges.”

The report does not disclose any other meetings between GSA officials and the President.

Spokespeople for several committees that received the report did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.