Washington — Less than 24 hours after the General Services Administration — the agency that helps manage the federal government —that it had selected Greenbelt, Maryland, as the location of the new future FBI headquarters, FBI Director Christopher Wray sent an email to bureau employees criticizing the process.
"I had hoped this message would include our enthusiastic support for the way GSA arrived at its selection," Wray wrote Thursday, according to a copy of the message reviewed by CBS News, "Unfortunately, we have concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA's failure to adhere to its own site selection plan."
Wray — who was tapped to lead the FBI by former President Donald Trump in 2017 — wrote that he was concerned about "a potential conflict of interest involving the site selection authority and whether changes that individual made in the final stage of the process adhered to the site selection criteria." The bureau's concerns about the process, he added, "remain unresolved."
The director's concerns are based not on the location selected, according to a person familiar with the matter, but how the Maryland site was chosen and the actions of one official involved in choosing the site.
"Process is one of our four pillars because it's critical to the way we accomplish the mission and maintain the trust and confidence of the American people," Wray wrote to FBI employees. "And I want to be clear with you all, in the same way we have been clear with GSA, that our concerns are not with the decision itself but with the process."
GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan shot back in a public statement Thursday that Wray was making "inaccurate claims directed at our agency, our employees, and our site selection plans and process."
"The choice of Greenbelt, Maryland, is fully consistent with the decision-making process as well as all laws, regulations, and ethical considerations," Carnahan's statement said. "We stand behind the process, the decision, and all of the public servants who carefully followed the process and made a good decision on behalf of the FBI and the public."
On Friday, Rep. Steny Hoyer, who has been a vocal advocate for the Greenbelt location, said he was "disappointed" by Wray's message and hopes that he complies with GSA's decision. In a brief interview with CBS News, he pushed back against any insinuation that the decision was political, arguing Greenbelt was less expensive and is closer to the Metro than the proposed Virginia site, making transportation for employees more convenient. Asked if he would reach out to Wray, Hoyer said he has not spoken with Wray in years but noted that in conversations with the FBI, Wray wanted the headquarters in DC. He also said he has not talked with President Biden about the decision, noting "the facts speak for themselves."
"The price of Virginia was $1.8 billion more than the price of Greenbelt," Hoyer said. "That's not a political judgment. That's a mathematical judgment."
For years, FBI and GSA officials considered moving the bureau's 1970's-era, downtown Washington, D.C., headquarters to a suburban location in either Maryland or Virginia. Between 2014 and 2017, the government tried to sell the current FBI headquarters land to a developer in exchange for the discounted construction of a new site at a different location. But in 2019, the FBI changed its stance and recommended remaining in the nation's capital, across the street from the Justice Department.
Under the Biden administration, momentum shifted against keeping the FBI headquarters entirely in Washington, D.C. and now, congressional budgetary requirements dictate that the bureau will split components of its headquarters between Washington and the new location.
Last month, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector Generalthe construction of a new FBI headquarters had not been impeded or unduly affected by the Trump White House. The report came after Democrats in Congress alleged Trump may have wanted to keep the FBI headquarters in Washington in order to avoid the possibility that a hotel might be built there — which would have competed with the Trump International Hotel a few blocks away.
The report said the inspector general was "concerned" by the lack of progress made by the FBI and Justice Department in moving forward with a new facility.
"Although we recognize that considerable work toward determining the FBI's requirements for a new Headquarters facility has been accomplished, GSA, DOJ, and the FBI must make significant decisions, obtain necessary congressional support, and complete substantial work over the next several years before the FBI's essential mission can be supported by a new Headquarters," the report said.
Nikole Killion contributed to this report.
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