Documents Show Trump’s Interest in FBI Building Near His Hotel
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump appears to have been personally involved in discussions on a new headquarters building for the FBI after his administration scrapped plans to sell the existing site in downtown Washington to private developers, according to newly released federal records.
Internal government emails made public Thursday show federal officials discussed in January plans to “execute POTUS’s orders" and accomplish “what POTUS directed everyone to do,” using Washington shorthand for the President of the United States. In two other emails, officials wrote that they were going to adhere to “the president’s instructions” and “deliver the project the president wants on the timetable he wants it done.”
House Democrats have said they suspect Trump intervened when his administration last July overturned long-pending plans to move the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Washington’s suburbs. The new building would have been financed by selling the existing site to developers, who the Democrats say could have competed with his luxury hotel across the street.
The Democrats want 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,” according to a letter sent Thursday by Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. It was addressed to Emily Murphy, who leads the General Services Administration, the agency responsible for federal property.
“Once again House Democrats have it all wrong,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “The president wanted to save the government money, and also the FBI leadership did not want to move its headquarters.”
Pamela Dixon, a GSA spokeswoman, said in a statement that the emails were “taken out of context and refer to the project’s funding approach, not the location decision. Suggestions that those emails indicate presidential involvement in the location decision are inaccurate.”
The J. Edgar Hoover FBI building, a block-long crumbling concrete hulk in the Brutalist style that’s often criticized as an eyesore, has been home to the FBI since 1974.
Murphy of the GSA is a Trump appointee and is also effectively his landlord. The GSA owns the Old Post Office building, which has been transformed into the Trump International Hotel under a lease negotiated well before Trump ran for president.
Questions about Trump’s family business, a constellation of hotels, golf courses and other interests that collectively form the Trump Organization, have dogged him since the start of his administration, when he broke with tradition by maintaining his ownership of the business while serving as president.
Trump placed his stake in a trust, run by sons Eric, Donald Jr. and longtime lieutenant Allen Weisselberg, but trust documents show that profits ultimately flow to the president and he can withdraw money at any time.
Congressional Democrats have long sought to investigate the Trump Organization and whether the Trump administration is aiding his business. Some have promised a wave of investigations if Democrats take control of the House in the Nov. 6 election.
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