U.S. House Oversight leader demands probe into ‘political interference’ in FBI HQ move

By: - December 5, 2023 5:17 pm

House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, above, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, sent a letter to the General Services Administration’s acting Inspector General, asking for a look into why the agency chose a Maryland location over two other sites. (Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The chair of the House Oversight Committee is calling on a government watchdog to investigate any “political interference” in the site selection process for the new FBI headquarters.

In addition, as House Republicans step up their interest in the growing dispute between Maryland and Virginia over where the headquarters should be moved from its current location on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., another House panel has scheduled a hearing for next week on the site selection.

Oversight Chair James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who sits on the panel, sent a letter to the General Services Administration’s acting Inspector General on Tuesday, asking him to look into why the agency chose a Maryland location over two other sites.

“Congress created GSA in 1949 to increase the efficiency and economy of federal government operations — not least the procurement and use of property,” the two wrote. “To fulfill that mission, GSA must be fair and transparent in its operations. Its real estate dealings should consider only what is best for taxpayers and the Nation. It must set aside political or parochial interests.”

Comer and Connolly wrote in the two-page letter they are “deeply concerned that GSA’s choice of a new FBI headquarters site departed from those principles — and in doing so, failed to put taxpayers and the public interest first.”

The acting Inspector General announced last week that he was “initiating an evaluation of GSA’s selection of the site.”

That process, he wrote in a letter to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, would “assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI Headquarters.”

“We intend to begin this work immediately and will share with you and the relevant committees a copy of any report which may result from this evaluation,” the acting Inspector General wrote.

Spokespeople for the Oversight Committee and Connolly didn’t immediately respond to a question from States Newsroom about why the evaluation already underway wouldn’t address their concerns with the process.

The GSA did not respond to a question about the differences between evaluations and investigations, but its website says the agency has an Office of Inspections and an Office of Investigations.

The Office of Inspections “analyzes and evaluates GSA’s programs and operations through management and programmatic inspections and evaluations that are intended to provide insight into issues of concern to GSA, Congress, and the American public.”

The Office of Investigations is a “statutory federal law enforcement organization that conducts nationwide criminal, civil, and administrative investigations of illegal or improper activities involving GSA programs, operations, and personnel.”

‘Pause’ urged

The General Services Administration selected Greenbelt, Maryland, as the location for the new headquarters in early November, following well over a decade of stops and starts. The final three options also included sites in Springfield, Virginia, and Landover, Maryland.

Lawmakers in Maryland were pleased with the decision, but Virginia officials immediately began to question whether it was legitimate. Shortly afterward, the acting inspector general opened the evaluation.

Eleven members of Virginia’s congressional delegation wrote to the Biden administration on Monday, calling for a “pause” on the new FBI headquarters in Greenbelt until that evaluation was completed.

Maryland lawmakers, including members of Congress and Gov. Wes Moore, have maintained that the site selection process was above board and rejected requests to halt progress.

A dozen of those Maryland lawmakers issued a joint statement Monday evening saying they “remain confident that any Inspector General evaluation will find what we know to be true: the Greenbelt site won on the merits.”

“After assessing the facts, the GSA determined that Greenbelt offers the lowest price and best value to taxpayers, the shortest proximity to public transportation, the most schedule certainty to ensure the FBI can move to a new headquarters that meets its mission and security needs as soon as possible, and the greatest opportunity to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s equity goals,” they wrote.

Those lawmakers included Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, and Kweisi Mfume, a member of the committee.

Tuesday U.S. House hearing

Debate over the FBI headquarters will get its own congressional hearing next week when the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management holds a hearing on the issue.

The hearing, titled “Ensuring Transparency in the Federal Government: An Examination of GSA’s Site Selection for the FBI Headquarters,” is scheduled to take place Tuesday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

The subcommittee is chaired by Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry with Dina Titus of Nevada as the top Democrat. The panel, however, doesn’t include any members of the Maryland or Virginia congressional delegations.

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.

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