WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), both members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, repeated their call for the General Service Administration (GSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to finally scrap ill-conceived plans to renovate the crumbling Hoover Building and renew activity toward a secure, fully consolidated campus headquarters elsewhere in the National Capital Region. The urging comes on the heels of a report from the GSA Inspector General faulting GSA and the FBI for misleading Congress by omitting more than half a billion in costs related to razing the Hoover Building versus a campus location, as well as misleading Congress when asked specific questions about the President’s and White House involvement in the discussions.
“We all agree that the J. Edgar Hoover Building is crumbling and unsafe and that the FBI needs a new headquarters. So the primary goal should be finding an area location that provides the space and security that allows the FBI to do its job protecting the American people and our national security. This should start with creating a site that fits the full needs of the FBI rather than misleading Congress and bending the needs of the FBI to fit a particular zip code,” said Senator Cardin. “There is no excuse. The President– who has a financial stake in a hotel on the same block as the FBI – and his senior staff should not be involved in the fine details of a major federal procurement. The White House has been dragging GSA and FBI into games that are costing taxpayers money and have only harmed our national security, as well as the brave men and women of the FBI, by further delaying the building of a modern, secure FBI headquarters.”
“The GSA Inspector General’s report confirms what we’ve suspected all along – the decision not to move forward with relocating the FBI headquarters was influenced by the White House and mismanaged from top to bottom. It’s deeply disturbing that the White House prohibited the GSA Administrator from disclosing the full scope of the President’s discussions on this issue. Given his personal financial stake in development of a property in close proximity to the Trump International Hotel, the American people are entitled to know precisely what direction he gave. Serious questions also remain about the true costs and security of the GSA plan,” said Senator Van Hollen. “I will continue to work towards a financially-responsible relocation of the FBI to a new, consolidated headquarters – a move that will meet the critical security needs of the FBI.”
The GSA Inspector General report details numerous times GSA officials, especially, provided Congress with incomplete or misleading information that was designed to make rebuilding the Hoover Building a financially more attractive option – at least $516 million worth. The report also identifies a number of House and Senate hearings where GSA officials refused to answer questions that would have alert Congress to White House involvement in the headquarters process.
At the February EPW “Hearing on Oversight: FBI Headquarters Consolidation Project,” mentioned in the report, both FBI and GSA officials refused to answer repeated questions from Cardin and Van Hollen about whether President Trump, who would benefit financially from not having a new commercial property across from the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, was party to conversations about this project either before or after the decision to scale back the new FBI HQ. As was evident at the time to anyone watching the hearing, and as mentioned in the Inspector General’s report today, GSA’s Daniel Mathews went to great lengths to avoid answering these basic questions:
Senator Cardin (2/28): “Who was in the room when this decision was made? I assume GSA was in the room. I assume FBI was in the room. Who else was in the room that decided we were going to rebuild the Hoover building and not go to a campus facility? … Who was involved in making the decision? … No input from the White House?”
Senator Van Hollen (2/28): “I understand that you were not talking to the President of the United States about this. I’m asking about whether you are aware of any conversations that anyone in the Administration had with the President of the United States about this project… Just for the record, neither witness answered the question, Mr. Chairman. I think it’s pretty clear.”
Cardin and Van Hollen also had pressed the agencies to explain to the American people how keeping the FBI at the Hoover Building suddenly meets the needs of the FBI, despite failing to meet nearly every security requirement as outlined by the FBI and GSA for more than a decade.