Property  Flat  Villa  real estate Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Shift in Plan to Move F.B.I. Headquarters

Property Flat Villa real estate Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Shift in Plan to Move F.B.I. Headquarters

Politics|Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Shift in Plan to Move F.B.I. HeadquartersImageThe F.B.I. had been moving toward relocating to a suburban cam

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Property Flat Villa real estate Politics|Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Shift in Plan to Move F.B.I. HeadquartersImageThe F.B.I. had been moving toward relocating to a suburban campus before the plans were changed to rebuild the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington.CreditCreditLeah Millis/ReutersWASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s top watchdog will review why the F.B.I. scuttled plans to erect a new headquarters in suburban Washington and instead chose to replace the J. Edgar Hoover Building on its current site near the White House, he wrote to lawmakers this week.The F.B.I.’s abrupt change of plans has fueled concerns among Democrats in Congress that President Trump personally intervened to make sure that the land was not redeveloped with a project that would compete with his company’s nearby hotel. In May, Democrats asked the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, to examine the decision.“For months, our committees have investigated the administration’s sudden change of heart on a federal property across the street from the president’s namesake hotel, but because the F.B.I. has withheld key decision-making documents from Congress, we have been left with many unanswered questions,” the Democratic heads of four House committees and subcommittees said on Wednesday in a statement. “We welcome the I.G.’s independent examination, which will supplement our ongoing effort to get to the truth.”The F.B.I. had been moving toward relocating to a campus in suburban Maryland or Virginia while also planning to move potentially thousands of bureau employees to Huntsville, Ala., where the F.B.I. already has a sizable presence and space for more people.But shortly after taking power, the Trump administration killed the plan to move to the suburbs. A little over a year into Mr. Trump’s term, and after at least one meeting in which he was personally involved, the administration announced a new plan that would keep the F.B.I. on the existing site in a new building, rather than turn over the property for commercial development. The White House wanted the building to remain in Washington, a former senior F.B.I. official involved in the relocation plans said.That decision has put a spotlight on the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, who has insisted that the decision to stay in Washington was his. In early April, Mr. Wray testified before Congress that “it is absolutely the F.B.I.’s view, the F.B.I.’s choice, the F.B.I.’s preference to build a new building” at the current site.The inspector general for the General Services Administration, which handles real estate for the federal government, has already said that the proposal to rebuild the existing headquarters could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the long-term relocation plan and that the new headquarters would accommodate about 2,500 fewer employees. Last year, a top F.B.I. official told Congress that the bureau would be moving more than 2,500 positions to facilities across the country, including Alabama. Earlier this year, the F.B.I. received $385 million for its expansion at Redstone Arsenal, a military base in Alabama.But a decision to stay in Washington, while perhaps more costly, makes sense for the F.B.I., former agents say. It allows the F.B.I. to remain close to the Justice Department, where many agents and prosecutors conduct daily business.A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 13 of the New York edition with the headline: F.B.I.’s Shift On Relocating Headquarters Draws Scrutiny. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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