White House Tries Inserting $1.8 Billion For FBI Building In COVID Aid Package Benefiting Trump D.C. Hotel
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said Tuesday that he opposes using the latest coronavirus aid package to create funding for rebuilding downtown Washington’s FBI headquarters.
The initiative, supported by President Donald Trump, would mean that nearly $1.8 billion of the funds allocated in the package would go towards the FBI headquarters project.
“When we get to the end of the process, I would hope all of the non-COVID-related measures are out,” McConnell told reporters. “No matter what bills they were in at the start.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) seconded McConnell’s thoughts, telling reporters Tuesday that he would be “fine” removing it from the coronavirus bill.
“That makes no sense to me,” Graham said of the coronavirus package including funds for the FBI building. ”I’d be fine, okay with stripping it out” of the legislation.
The comments opposing its inclusion in the package come after Democrats accused Trump of supporting the FBI renovation for personal reasons.
“They don’t have money for food stamps, but they have money for an FBI building just so that they can diminish competition for the president’s hotel,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said Monday night.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) echoed Pelosi’s remarks saying, “They managed to have enough money for $2 billion for the FBI headquarters that benefits Trump hotel, and they say they have no money for food assistance. What the heck is going on?”
The Trump International Hotel sits across from the current FBI headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover building, and could lose business if the headquarters relocate to the suburbs.
“The site they have now is better” than any alternative, Trump said Thursday. Moving to Maryland or Virginia “would’ve been too far away.”
White House spokesperson Judd Deere defended the request in a statement Tuesday.
“As President Trump has said, the FBI desperately needs a new building and this measure provides critical funding for this project that would keep the building responsibly near the Department of Justice,” Deere said.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows justified the inclusion in the coronavirus bill due to it being a “pressing need.”
“Well, it’s just a pressing need, so whether it’s this bill or (another spending bill) later, it’s just a pressing need,” Meadows said.