Five Democratic Congressional leaders have sent a letter to the head of the Government Services Administration expressing their concerns about President Trump’s sudden decision to reverse long-standing plans to move the headquarters of the FBI from its current location opposite the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC to the nearby suburbs, claiming that the president did so to protect his own financial interests.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management jointly signed a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy after they obtained documents and emails that show that:
“a more expensive plan to keep the existing property on Pennsylvania Avenue, demolish the existing building, and construct a new facility on the same site—and thereby prevent commercial developers from competing with the Trump Hotel directly across the street—was approved during a meeting with President Trump at the Oval Office on January 24, 2018,” according to a press release from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Democrats.
The documents and emails describe this decision as “direction from the White House,” “what POTUS directed everyone to do,” and “the project the president wants.” They also show that top GSA officials promised to “hold our ground” on this proposal “per the President’s instructions.”
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“As a direct result of President Trump’s clear conflict of interest on this matter, we are now requesting information and documents 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,” the Ranking Members wrote.
Before becoming President, Donald Trump wanted the FBI headquarters moved out of Washington, D.C. so he could buy the land on Pennsylvania Avenue and redevelop the property. Once he was sworn in as President, however, he became a federal employee and therefore not eligible to purchase the property. Reportedly, Trump became dead set against the government selling the property to potential competitors.
The Democratic Ranking Committee members argue that Trump should not have had any input into any decision related to his own business interests.
“Given this background, President Trump should have avoided all interactions or communications relating to the FBI headquarters project to prevent both real and perceived conflicts of interest,” the Ranking Members added. “He should not have played any role in a determination that bears directly on his own financial interests with the Trump Hotel. The GSA also should have taken steps to wall off the decision from improper influence.”
GSA Administrator Murphy has sworn in testimony that she had no communications with President Trump or other White House officials about this decision, but an official White House photo shows Murphy, Trump, and others discussing the proposal in the Oval Office on January 24, 2018.
The Representatives slammed Murphy for her apparent perjury.
“Even more troubling is that you concealed this information from Congress,” the Ranking Members wrote to Murphy. “During sworn testimony, you were asked directly and repeatedly whether you had any communications with President Trump or other White House officials about this project. In response, you withheld information about this and other meetings—omissions the Inspector General warned may have left a ‘misleading’ impression that you ‘had no discussions with White House officials in the decision-making process about the project’.”
The Democrats were skeptical that the decision was based on anything other than President Trump’s self-interest. particularly since the new plans approved by the president to rebuild the existing FBI building would cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the long-term relocation plan, but it would accommodate 2,306 fewer employees.
This latest accusation against Trump demonstrates the dangers of having a president who refuses to disclose his income tax returns and divest himself of his businesses that provide multiple avenues for conflicts of interest. With Republicans in currently in control of both houses of Congress, you can be sure that no real investigation of the accusations against the president on these types of conflicts will take place unless the Democrats regain the majority in at least one house of Congress in the midterms. It’s up to you to get out and vote to make that a reality, so we can hold Trump accountable for the massive corruption he’s behind.
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