GSA Makes Shocking Decision To Block Competitor To Trump Hotel
Who's excited to talk about the General Services Administration?
Yeah, that's what the White House was hoping you'd say! That weirdly photoshopped lady up there is Emily Murphy, Administrator of the GSA, and she's also hoping that you won't look too closely at the Inspector General's report out yesterday on the FBI's sudden decision in February to ditch the longstanding plan to relocate the agency's headquarters to suburban Maryland and Virginia. Because the IG finds that her answers to Congress were "incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with White House officials in the decisionmaking process about the project." They also found that her agency massaged the numbers to make it look like staying in the DC location would save the government money, when in fact the opposite is true.
Did Ms. Murphy forget to include the cost-savings from selling that valuable piece of land smack in the middle of downtown DC? WHOOPSIE!
But why would she do that? Well, it's hard to say. But it definitely has nothing to do with the fact that Donald Trump's DC hotel is a block from the current FBI building.
And if Murphy and the GSA had the questions about the value of the land under the Hoover Building, they could just have asked Donald Trump. In 2013, when the GSA was looking to partner with a real estate developer to assist with construction of a new facility in exchange for the valuable downtown DC plot, Trump himself contemplated bidding on it. But that was long ago, when he was a private citizen. Now his only concern is for American taxpayers! Right, WaPo?
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) issued a statement Monday, saying "there is no question that the President stands to gain financially by keeping the FBI in its existing building and blocking any competition for the Trump Hotel from being developed there."
"One has to wonder if the Trump administration's decision to cancel the previous procurement process has anything to do with the proximity of the current FBI headquarters building to the Trump hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue," Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement Monday.
So, did Donald Trump intervene in January 2018 to stop the Justice Department from selling the valuable DC real estate under the J. Edgar Hoover building? Ms. Murphy can't say, because, ummm ... Executive Privilege?
As noted in the report, early in the review the OIG learned that during the course of GSA's decision-making on the Revised FBI Headquarters Plan, Administrator Murphy met with the President on January 24, 2018, to discuss the project. When we sought information about the meeting, however, we initially received inconsistent and unhelpful responses to our inquiries from GSA witnesses.
Some GSA witnesses readily described what they knew of the meeting, while others initially refused to discuss it or even acknowledge that a meeting had occurred. When we asked for the basis for these initial refusals, some witnesses, including Administrator Murphy, told us they could not comment on meetings they had or did not have with senior White House officials. Murphy also stated that she was told not to answer by GSA's Acting General Counsel, who she said told her that such answers were subject to executive privilege.
In fact, Murphy did meet with the President, John Kelly, White House Counsel Don McGahn, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short. But when she appeared before Congress, she claimed the decision was made solely in consultation with the FBI and Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Representative Quigley: Was anyone else at the White House involved with briefing you or to your knowledge did the [P]resident or any of the other officials at the White House consult with any of these other agencies in the decisionmaking process?
Murphy: Well, sir, the FBI was the one who came to me and said that there's – their requirements had changed, they no longer required a campus for 11,000 individuals, they were looking at a campus – they only had a requirement for about 8,300 individuals and based on that they wanted to put the J. Edgar Hoover site back into play. They actually requested that GSA consider renovating the building. In my conversations with GSA and then with the FBI we pushed back and didn't believe that was the right answer. We thought that the renovation of the building wasn't going to address setback issues and further given that it uses something called post-tensioned cabling to support it would, that any hardening we tried to do with the building wouldn't be successful and that would be a long-term project that was – it – put the FBI's initiative at risk. So, GSA then suggested that instead if the requirement was to stay in proximity to the Department of Justice and that location worked and it had the infrastructure in place that GSA proposed instead taking the opportunity to demolish the current FBI headquarters and rebuild on that site something that had (ph) the setbacks, that could do the – couldn't have hardening, that could meet the requirements of the FBI for that new reduced headcount.
Let's say that the witness, a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, lacked candor in her Congressional Testimony. And she's not alone. Here's the commissioner for the GSA's Public Buildings Service, Dan Matthews, and Richard Haley II, assistant director for the FBI's finance division, who are just "unable to answer that question" in response to Senator Van Hollen's repeated queries about White House interference with the FBI building decision.
Remember that list we told you about yesterday of all the crazy shit Democrats are going to investigate if we take over the House and/or the Senate? Add it to the pile!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.