Jul 29, 2018

Scoop: Trump's obsession with the "terrible" FBI building

Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Trump is obsessed with the FBI building. For months now, in meetings with White House officials and Senate appropriators intended to discuss big-picture spending priorities, the president rants about the graceless J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, D.C.

Behind the scenes: In the midst of one rant about the FBI, he lit into the building. "Even the building is terrible," he observed to an Axios source. "It's one of the brutalist-type buildings, you know, brutalist architecture. Honestly, I think it's one of the ugliest buildings in the city."

  • Another source said he was dead opposed to plans to move it out of D.C. "This is prime real estate, right on Pennsylvania Avenue," he said. "This is a great address. They need to stay there. But it needs a total revamp."
  • That source said Trump told Chief of Staff John Kelly he wants to oversee the project at an excruciating level of detail: the cost per square foot, the materials used, the renovation specs, etc. He's treating it like it's a Trump Organization construction project, the source added.

The White House response: In response to my emails about this story, a senior official said, "POTUS has interest in the issue and has met with FBI officials, but more importantly the GSA [General Services Administration] team. GSA has concerns that the building can't be rehabilitated particularly given the security requirements and has relayed that to him."

  • What's next? The FBI hasn't submitted a plan for a new building to Congress, and Congress hasn't appropriated any money for the project. The senior official added that the FBI leadership and work force would prefer to stay in D.C. and "are working with GSA for optimum design for the Bureau's needs and at lowest budget, fastest timetable, etc." 

Be smart: To risk stating the obvious, it's highly unusual for the president of the United States to micromanage a building project.

  • Responding to this story, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: "POTUS is always interested in building because he knows it better than anyone and has been very successful in it. He's found GSA to be on it, 'very impressive' and 'knowledgeable' are the phrases he has used."

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