The U.S. Department of Justice inspector general is launching an investigation into the Trump administration's decision to ditch previously proposed plans to relocate the FBI's headquarters, according to a letter the department's watchdog sent to lawmakers this week.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz informed leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that his office is "initiating a review" to assess the DOJ and FBI's involvement in decisions relating to the relocation of the bureau from downtown Washington, D.C., to the city's suburbs.
"The review will include an examination of DOJ's and the FBI's progress in its planning, their assessment and consideration of the previously proposed plan to move FBI headquarters to a suburban location, and their assessment and consideration of the plan to demolish the J. Edgar Hoover Building and construct a new facility," Horowitz wrote in a letter dated July 2, 2019.
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Maryland and Virginia had been competing to be the new home for the FBI, which has long outgrown its aging headquarters in the nation's capital.
Trump has reportedly taken a keen interest in revamping the building, which is located across the street from the Trump International Hotel, according to an Axios report from last year.
A previous inspector general report found that Trump was participating in meetings in which the FBI headquarters project was discussed. The IG report, though, offered no conclusions about whether Trump actively pushed for the downtown location in those meetings.
The inspector general concluded that determining Trump's specific involvement was difficult, in large part because the inspector general said employees at the General Services Administration, which manages real estate for the federal government, were instructed not to discuss any statements Trump made at those meetings.
Last year, Democratic leaders on the House Oversight Committee accused Trump of personally intervening to keep the bureau downtown, citing documents provided to the lawmakers. In a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings, Gerry Connolly, Dina Titus, Peter DeFazio and Mike Quigley wrote that correspondence from a senior official at the GSA outlines a January 2018 Oval Office meeting, describing the headquarters decision as "what POTUS directed everyone to do." Another email discusses steps that will be "necessary to deliver the project the president wants on the timetable he wants it done," the lawmakers wrote.
Connolly, of Virginia, said the project represents a conflict of interest for Trump.
In January, the House Oversight Committee announced plans to investigate why the decision was made not to relocate and by whom. In April, FBI Director Christopher Ray told a house panel the cancellation was the FBI's decision.
“For months, our Committees have investigated the Administration’s sudden change of heart on a federal property across the street from the President’s namesake hotel, but because the FBI has withheld key decision-making documents from Congress, we have been left with many unanswered questions. We welcome the IG’s independent examination, which will supplement our ongoing effort to get to the truth," a press release from the House committee read.
They say the decision to demolish the current building and construct a new one will cost taxpayers more money.