Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump was more instrumental than previously known in scrapping plans to move the FBI headquarters out of Washington to the DC suburbs, according to newly released internal government emails.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump personally intervened to stop the FBI from moving its headquarters in Washington, D.C., to the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, emails made public Thursday reveal. The decision that the bureau will not move will help the presidents bottom line by reducing competition for his flagship hotel property located in the Old Post Office building across the street from the current FBI building.
The emails between officials at the General Services Administration, which oversees government-owned properties, and the FBI show that the decision to stop the long-running plan to move FBI headquarters to the suburbs and sell the sprawling, brutalist J. Edgar Hoover Building to developers for a mixed-use development came directly from the president.
In the emails, which were made public by House Democrats, officials discuss what was decided in the meeting with POTUS, the Presidents instructions, and direction from WH following a January 2018 meeting about the plan.
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, Democrats on several House committees wrote in a letter Thursday. 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.
Back in 2013, Trump said hed be interested in acquiring the land the FBI building sits on should the bureau move out of Washington. As president, hes reportedly been obsessed with the building.
This revelation provides further problems for GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. At a congressional oversight hearing in April, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) asked Murphy if the president was involved in the discussions to change the decade-old plan to relocate the FBI headquarters. Murphy said the decision came solely from the FBI. That answer was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with White House officials in the decision-making, an inspector general report into Murphys comments revealed in August.
That inspector general report revealed that the White House held multiple meetings with GSA officials, including Murphy, for discussions about the FBI building.
Trumps ownership of the Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office building attracted immediate criticism upon his 2016 election victory. The Old Post Office building is owned by the GSA, and the presidents business operates out of the historic structure on a 60-year lease. When the president took the unprecedented step to not divest from his personal business he effectively became the boss of his lessor, the GSA. No situation could be more ripe for conflicts of interest.
The lease technically states that no … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom. But a GSA contracting officer ruled in March 2017, after Trump assumed the presidency and authority over the agency, that the hotel was in full compliance of the lease.
Trump is also potentially in violation of the U.S. Constitutions emoluments clause, which forbids federal government officials from receiving any emolument (a financial or material gain) from the United States, or any of them or from foreign governments. The domestic section of the clause is designed to prevent individual states or parts of the federal government from bribing high-ranking officials.
The president and his business are currently the targets of two separate lawsuits arguing that he is in violation of the emoluments clause. The federal judges overseeing both cases ― one brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia and the other by Democratic senators led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) ― have already ruled that the emoluments clause applies to the president and that an emolument is defined as any profit, gain, or advantage.
Its one more example we see where, because of the presidents personal financial interests, hes willing to compromise the interests of our government, said Anne Weismann, counsel for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.