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FBI headquarters relocation to Maryland under investigation after state leaders argue for new site

FBI headquarters relocation to Maryland under investigation after state leaders argue for new site
FBI headquarters relocation to Maryland under investigation after state leaders argue for new site 02:41

BALTIMORE -- The Biden administration is being investigated on its decision to relocate the FBI headquarters to Greenbelt, Maryland.

However, Maryland lawmakers are adamant that the "new FBI headquarters project is moving forward."

"Let us be perfectly clear: the new FBI headquarters project is moving forward," Maryland lawmakers said in a joint statement. "The GSA (General Services Administration) selected Greenbelt for the new, consolidated FBI headquarters based on the fact that it is the best site. Any objective evaluation will find that the GSA arrived at this decision after a thorough and transparent process."

A federal watchdog is investigating how the Biden administration chose a site for a new FBI headquarters following a contentious competition marked by allegations of conflict of interest.

The Inspector General for the General Services Administration is probing the decision to locate the facility in Greenbelt, over a site in Virginia., according to a letter released Thursday by Virginia lawmakers. The new building would replace the FBI's crumbling headquarters in nearby Washington, D.C.

On Thursday evening, U.S. Senator of Maryland Chris Van Hollen said he is confident the evaluation will vindicate the decision. 

"What they'll be looking for is any errors in judgment and if you look at the opinion and the decision, it's very transparent and very rational and very clear as to why Maryland was chosen," Van Hollen said. 

In a collaborative press conference earlier this month, the lawmakers explained why Maryland is an ideal spot for the new building.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore noted that the current FBI building in Washington, D.C. is crumbling, and a new building is desperately needed. 

Moore added that "the FBI belongs in Maryland."

"At a time when the current FBI building in Washington, D.C., is literally falling apart; at a time when incidents of hate crimes are growing here at home; at a time when the nature of national security is changing, with an increased focus on cybersecurity; at a time when access to affordable transit isn't just a bonus, it's a necessity for employees in the modern workforce—in this time and in this moment, there is no question. The FBI belongs in Maryland," Moore said.  "And we know we have always won on the merits. We're not just excited about this because it's the right choice for Maryland—we're excited about this because it's the right choice for the country, and it's the right choice for the FBI too. Bringing the bureau to Maryland will benefit the mission of the FBI for generations to come."

 The U.S. General Services Administration announced that the 61-acre site in Greenbelt, Maryland, will be the new home for the FBI headquarters after scoring highest in four of five selection criteria:

  • Greenbelt is the most transit accessible site, due to its 0.1 mile walking distance to Metro and commuter rail;
  • Greenbelt provides for a consistent and predictable construction schedule as the site is owned by a public entity and offers a clear public process and timeline to achieve site control;
  • Greenbelt offers the best opportunity for the government's investment to positively impact region through sustainable and equitable development;
  • Greenbelt provides the lowest overall cost to taxpayers.

Moore said that the new headquarters will bring in more than 7,500 new jobs and generate more than $4 billion in economic activity.

"After assessing the facts, the GSA determined that Greenbelt offers the lowest price and best value to taxpayers, the easiest access to public transportation, the most schedule certainty to ensure the FBI can move to a new headquarters that meets its mission and security needs as soon as possible, and the greatest opportunity to advance the Biden-Harris Administration's equity goals," Maryland lawmakers said. "The GSA made its decision accordingly. Although some may not like that outcome, the GSA has clearly demonstrated that this process was transparent."

However, the decision to move the headquarters to Maryland has been facing some challenges. 

Virginia's senators and representatives said in a joint statement that there was evidence the process was influenced by political considerations and called on the GSA to pause anything related to the relocation until the review is complete.

"Given the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) administered a site selection process fouled by politics, we agree that an inspector general investigation is the appropriate next step," Virginia lawmakers said in a joint statement. "We applaud the inspector general for moving quickly and encourage him to move forward to complete a careful and thorough review. In the meantime, the GSA must pause all activities related to the relocation until the IG's investigation is complete." 

The news comes after FBI Director Christopher Wray told staff in an internal message earlier this month that he was concerned about a "potential conflict of interest" in a senior executive choosing a site owned by a previous employer.

"I had hoped this message would include our enthusiastic support for the way GSA arrived at its selection," Wray wrote in an email to FBI employees reviewed by CBS News at the time. "Unfortunately, we have concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA's failure to adhere to its own site selection plan."

GSA, which manages the government's real estate portfolio, denied any conflict and said the Greenbelt site was chosen because it was cheapest and had the best access to public transit.

Maryland and Virginia have long been vying to land the FBI. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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