When it comes to the latest economic aid package, Republicans are divided amongst themselves on a variety of issues, but on Capitol Hill, GOP lawmakers seem to agree on one thing: there's no reason for the bill to include money to fund a new FBI headquarters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said including this in the package "makes no sense." Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) added, “I just don’t get it -- how is it tied to coronavirus?” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) also told reporters yesterday, “Even if the White House wanted it, I’d be against it because that’s certainly not necessary."
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday that he's opposed to leaving this provision in the bill.
So, that's that? Not according to the president who wanted to see this in the bill in the first place. Trump told reporters this morning:
"We have that in the bill. It should stay.... Republicans should go back to school and learn.”
As part of the same unscripted comments, he went on to say that the FBI has "the best piece of property in Washington." Trump knows this, he added, because "he's very good at real estate."
This didn't sound like someone ready to let the matter go.
Remember, as we discussed yesterday, the president is demanding that the coronavirus package include $1.75 billion for the FBI's headquarters for reasons that appear quite corrupt.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, Trump’s keen interest in the FBI’s headquarters has been ongoing for quite a while. In fact, Axios reported exactly two years ago today on the president's "obsession" with the question about whether to leave the FBI where it is or relocate the bureau’s headquarters to a nearby suburb.
The president made it clear at the time he was “dead opposed to plans to move it out of D.C."
Asked for an explanation, then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in October 2018, “The president wanted to save the government money,” which is why he directly intervened in the project. The Wall Street Journal reported soon after that Sanders’ argument was the opposite of the truth: the administration knew that keeping the FBI headquarters in downtown D.C. "would cost more than a competing proposal to relocate to the suburbs."
As for why the president would take an interest in this in the first place, some geographic context is probably in order. For those unfamiliar with D.C., the Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently located along Pennsylvania Avenue, about four blocks east of the White House.
It’s also, incidentally, about a block from the Trump International Hotel, which the president still leases, operates, and profits from. If the current FBI headquarters were redeveloped in its existing space, it would guarantee that a competing hotel wouldn’t go in at that location.
All of which makes it interesting that the White House has not only been directly involved in the talks about plans for the building, but it's also pushing for a provision about the FBI headquarters' future in an unrelated economic package.
And as members of his own party push back against Trump's push, the president signaled this morning that he expects them to follow his lead, appearances of impropriety be damned.