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Watchdog: Trump was involved in FBI headquarters location plan

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The General Services Administration's inspector general found that the agency may have misled Congress about the White House's role in a decision not to relocate the FBI's headquarters. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg

By Daniel Uria, UPI

General Services Administration officials may have misled Congress about the White House's role in a decision not to relocate the FBI's headquarters, a watchdog report released Monday indicates.

The report by GSA Inspector General Carol F. Ochoa said GSA Administrator Emily Murphy's testimony before Congress about a January meeting with President Donald Trump on the project was incomplete and may have left the impression she didn't discuss the plans with the president or other White House officials.

In February, the GSA presented a plan to demolish its headquarters at the the J. Edgar Hoover building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., and construct a new building on the same site. The choice was a departure from a previous plan to search for a campus facility in suburban Washington, D.C.

Murphy told the inspector general she met with Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and budget director Mick Mulvaney on Jan. 24, to discuss the decision-making process for the FBI headquarters plan.

However, when Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., asked Murphy if the president or anyone else in the White House were involved in the discussions during a congressional hearing about the project in April, Murphy said the direction came from the FBI.

Murphy later told the inspector general she was trying to answer where the instruction came from and further added "it would be inappropriate to comment on any discussions she had or did not have with the president," believing such statements would derail the hearings.

The report stated Murphy requested the discussion of her testimony be removed, stating the conclusion was unfair because the congressman's questions were "clearly limited," but the inspector general disagreed, asserting her testimony was incomplete and misleading.

The report also found that the GSA misrepresented the cost of razing and rebuilding the FBI's Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters to make it seem as if it was less expensive then relocating to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The inspector general found it would in fact be more costly.

The GSA responded to the report, disputing the inspector general's findings of White House involvement in the decision making and asserting its cost estimation was accurate.

"The FBI made the decision to keep its headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue," the GSA said. "GSA is unaware of any White House involvement in the FBI's decision. Further, GSA stands by the cost analysis in its revised plan, as those numbers are accurate, transparent, and more representative of the full costs of the project than the analysis put forth in the IG review."

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who requested the inspector general report, issued a statement saying the report assured Trump was involved in the decision.

"When we began this investigation, the prospect that President Trump was personally involved in the government-led redevelopment of a property in close proximity to the Trump Hotel was dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Now, the president's involvement in this multi-billion-dollar government procurement which will directly impact his bottom line has been confirmed by the White House Press Secretary and government photographs," Connolly said.

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