A reporter apparently surprised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he asked him about why $1.75 billion to rebuild the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington was included in the stimulus bill revealed by Republicans on Monday.
USA Today reports the source of the funding request was the White House, and despite the request being in the bill he reportedly helped author, McConnell doesn’t support the idea.
"I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it's funding for the FBI building or for example in the House bill whether it's a tax cut for high-income earners in blue states or other non-germane amendments like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. However, he didn’t say he would push for the removal of the funding request from the bill.
There have been plans dating back to the Obama administration to replace the headquarters, named after former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. The building is reportedly in need of major repair and renovation, and a government analysis determined it would be less expensive to relocate the building to Maryland or Virginia suburbs than to rebuild on the same lot.
The building is located in prime, i.e. expensive, D.C. real estate in the 900 block of Pennsylvania, just a few blocks from the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania. The building is also just a block from the Trump International Plaza Hotel in the 1100 block of Pennsylvania.
Shortly after he took office, Trump scrapped plans to move the FBI headquarters outside of D.C. and instead opted for the renovation of the existing location. Within months of his inauguration, Vornado Realty Trust, a company that owns buildings with Donald Trump, was announced as a finalist for the $1.7 billion renovation project.
More than the renovation of the headquarters benefitting his business partners, a renovated facility just blocks from his hotel will benefit Trump. A major renovation in the hotel’s vicinity will help increase the hotel’s value and help the hotel maintain a steady stream of customers.
Last fall, the Trump Organization put the hotel up for sale.
“People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell,” Eric Trump told The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the company was seeking $500 million to sell the lease to the hotel.
Though Eric Trump complained of the criticism that his family received for buying the hotel, selling it could create another set of problems. The land the hotel sits on is owned by the U.S. General Services Administration, a federal agency that would have to sign off on any sale. The arrangement also “raises possible conflicts of interest since Trump is effectively on both sides of the transaction as the seller and the boss of the GSA officials charged with approving a deal,” CNN noted.
Despite their interest in selling the property, the commercial real estate industry has ground nearly to a halt because of coronavirus shutdowns, forcing buyers and sellers of major properties, including President Trump’s company, to put their plans on hold. Enter the stimulus package and a great way to help improve the neighborhood with $1.75 billion of the government’s money.
Still, some potential buyers questioned why the president would not wait to leave office before selling the property, CNN reported, while others raised “ethical concerns” that the hotel is overpriced and "being marketed to deep-pocketed foreign buyers” who may see a potential purchase as an opportunity to “curry favor” with the president.