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McConnell Wants Funding for FBI Headquarters that Trump Requested Out of Bill

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McConnell Wants Funding for FBI Headquarters that Trump Requested Out of Bill

2020-07-29 16:51:03

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: FBI Headquarters (Image source: Aude via Wikimedia Commons)

When the contents of the Senate Republicans' stimulus bill proposal were first announced, there was some confusion. It includes $1.75 billion in funding for a renovation of the FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. It's unknown how that could possibly connect to the coronavirus pandemic and the efforts to improve the economy.

 It was explained that this was an item that Donald Trump wants included in the bill. When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were negotiating with the Senate GOP, they kept pushing for funding for the construction of a new FBI headquarters to be included, and it was.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had a change of heart after including it. He said on Tuesday that he wants that portion of the proposal removed.

"I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it's funding for the FBI building or, for example, in the House bill, whether it's a tax cut for high-income earners in blue states or other non-germane amendments in the House bill like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants," McConnell told reporters after a lunch meeting with his peers, Mnuchin, and Meadows.

"When we get to the end of the process, I would help all of the non-COVID-related measures are out, no matter what bill they were in at the start," the senator concluded.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) said that Mnuchin and Meadows had pushed them to include the FBI headquarters funding on the bill. "It was a request from the administration," he confirmed.

Democratic leaders believe Trump wants the building rebuilt at its current site out of personal gain to him, as it's currently located across the street from Trump International Hotel.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Trump wants to rebuild the FBI headquarters "so that nobody could build a hotel across the street" from his hotel.

She wasn't alone, as several Senate Republicans questioned the inclusion on the stimulus bill as well. "A couple people mentioned it. I didn't know why it's in there," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) after he attended the luncheon.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said he'd only learned of it after reading about it on the news.

Asked whether it would stay in the legislation, Mnuchin said, "We're looking at everything in the bill."

It can't be too much of a surprise to the lawmakers, as this desire of Trump's to rebuild the FBI headquarters has been bouncing around since at least January 2018.

In October 2018, the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), then the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a few months before he became the chairman, and other senior Democrats, crafted a letter.

"New documents provided to the Oversight Committee indicate that President Trump met personally with you, the FBI, the White House officials on January 24, 2018, where he was directly involved with the decision to abandon the long-term relocation plan and instead move ahead with the more expensive proposal to construct a new building on the same site, and thereby prevent Trump Hotel competitors from acquiring the land," read the letter.

Then-White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that the "House Democrats have it all wrong," explaining, "The president wanted to save the government money and also the FBI leadership did not want to move its headquarters."

However, the General Services Administration's inspector general concluded that building a new headquarters in the same location "would actually be more costly" than relocating it to the suburbs.

"As previously testified by GSA and the FBI, the leadership team at the FBI made the decision to keep its headquarters at the current Pennsylvania Avenue location. A number of emails referenced in today's congressional letter are taken out of context and refer to the project's funding approach, not the location decision," said agency spokeswoman Pamela Dixon.

"Suggestions that those emails indicate presidential involvement in the location decision are inaccurate. GSA stands by its testimony and the cost analysis proposed in the joint revised plan submitted to Congress in February." 

Certainly, it's wise of the senators to insist that this not be included in this stimulus bill. It appears Trump wants to be sure he eliminates the DC competition to his business, whether or not he sees another four years in office. And helping the country and the economy heal from the pandemic needs to be paramount.

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