SEABROOK – After a report from the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of the Inspector General confirmed that the Trump Administration was involved in the cancellation of the relocation of the FBI Headquarters, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III calls the findings a confirmation of being “misinformed” on the decision.
In a statement released on Aug. 27, Baker, whose term is set to end this year, traveled to Washington, D.C. to learn the reasons why the project, which has spent $60 million on studying various locations for new home for the agency, ended without a replacement named for the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Today’s report released by the G.S.A. Office of the Inspector General affirms that we were misinformed about the reasons for the abrupt cancellation of this project earlier this year by the Trump Administration.
“It may not be new news to hear that President (Donald Trump) struggles with facts and the truth, but we expect our federal government departments and agencies, administrators, and processes to adhere to the rules and laws defining federal lease procurement practices,” Baker said.
According to the report, after GSA officials testified in April that the administration was not involved in the decision, the report finds that Trump had two meetings with GSA officials in January and June. In those meetings, it was agreed to tear down the current building and rebuild a new headquarters in its place.
The search ended in July 2017 with officials cited the lack of funds. GSI and FBI announced this February that the headquarters would remain on its current site.
Also, the report found that officials “greatly underestimating” the cost of keeping the FBI in Washington, D.C. Had the project continued, plans were to sell off the J. Edgar Hoover Building to offset the costs from the construction of a new headquarters.
The decision to end the search for a new FBI Headquarters affected Prince George’s the most. Two county cities, Landover and Greenbelt, were two of the three finalists named in the final stages of the projects. Had one of them been chosen, it would have been a continuation of the new infrastructure projects that have entered the county.
Since the cancellation, both cities have yet to add new projects to replace the FBI project. Open land and excess parking lot space used for Greenbelt Metro Station was the cornerstone of the one the bids. Had Greenbelt been selected, traffic issues would have been lessened with employees encouraged to use Metro.
In the other bid, the new headquarters would have taken over the land that was formally Landover Mall, which sat across from FedExField. After the mall’s closure in 2002, Sears stayed in the property until it decided not to renew its lease with the owners, Lerner Enterprises, in 2014.
Currently, the 88-acre property sits vacant with only Long Ho’s Lowest Price Auto Service the only business on the site.
Upon learning of the report, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.-5) called the report “extremely alarming” on how involved the administration is to the relocation plans. The Maryland congressman stated that Congress should not add more money towards the project until the Trump Administration answer questions relating scrapping the FBI’s relocation efforts.
“This project is a matter of national security,” Hoyer said. “The current site of the FBI headquarters does not meet the FBI’s extensive security needs, and the dedicated men and women at the FBI need a new fully consolidated headquarters to perform the critical missions that keep our nation safe.”
Reactions to the report have questioned if Trump’s involvement is more related to his businesses than a cost-cutting measure. The current FBI Headquarters is two minutes away from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and if relocation plans would have been completed, a competing organization could have bidder to purchase the site.
“There seems to be commingling between Trump business-interests and, frankly, national interests and it brings a lot of concerns for me,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said to local outlet WUSA 9.
The Trump Administration has not released a statement on the findings from the report.