‘No more deliberation, there’s no more questioning:’ Maryland leaders defend FBI relocation

‘No more deliberation, there’s no more questioning:’ Maryland leaders defend FBI relocation

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen defends the federal government's choice of Greenbelt, Maryland, for a new FBI headquarters. He's joined by Maryland leaders (from left) Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Gov. Wes Moore, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. (Capital News Service/Tommy Tucker)

By TOMMY TUCKER

GREENBELT, Md. – Maryland leadership, in a news conference Friday, strenuously rejected claims that the decision process for the FBI headquarters was tainted and called the matter a done deal.

The U.S. General Services Administration announced Wednesday that the FBI would relocate to a new facility to be built in Greenbelt by the Metro station. In response, Virginia officials, along with FBI director Christopher Wray, called for a reversal of the decision, with Wray claiming in a letter to the agency last month that the GSA failed to address conflicts of interest in the selection process.

Gov. Wes Moore, along with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, all Democrats, as well as other Maryland leaders, celebrated the decision Friday, while criticizing the statements made by Wray.

Cardin threw back some of the claims, calling out Wray for his actions.

“We saw the hand of the director of the FBI trying to change what should be a fair, competitive, open process to steer it to Virginia,” said Cardin. “The GSA has released all of the information on how they made the decision. Transparency, it’s there. Take a look at it – it’s not a close call.”

Finding the FBI a new headquarters has been an ongoing issue for more than a decade. Hoyer described how former FBI Director Robert Mueller came to him in 2009, describing the need for a new building and how the current headquarters is crumbling.

Van Hollen defended Nina Albert, the commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service, who has been named in published reports as the official who Wray claimed had a conflict of interest. Albert previously worked for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which owns the land where the new FBI headquarters will be located.

“It is absolutely wrong of director Chris Wray to impugn and question the character, the integrity and the independence of the site selection administrator,” said Van Hollen. “She’s an expert in the field of real estate and transit, she’s a public servant and she had a distinguished career as an Army veteran.”

Virginia leadership, including U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, responded to the relocation decision, echoing some of the issues brought up by Wray.

“We are deeply disturbed to learn that a political appointee at the General Services Administration overruled the unanimous recommendation of a three-person panel comprised of career experts from the GSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluding that Springfield, Virginia, is the site best suited for the new FBI headquarters. We have repeatedly condemned political interference in the independent, agency-run, site selection process for a new FBI headquarters. Any fair weighing of the criteria points to a selection of Virginia. It is clear that this process has been irrevocably undermined and tainted, and this decision must now be reversed.”

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan responded to Wray, calling the claims of interference “unfounded” in a statement released Thursday.

“At every step, the GSA team has worked to incorporate the FBI’s feedback and appropriately address their concerns, including conducting a legal review of each concern raised.”

The new facility will sit on an undeveloped 61-acre plot, directly across from the Greenbelt Metro Station. It is expected to be significantly cheaper than the Springfield site, the officials have said. Proximity to NASA, the University of Maryland, College Park and the NSA factored into the final decision.

At Friday’s news conference, Maryland leadership expressed repeatedly that they are confident that the decision is final.

To illustrate why he is confident the process will proceed, Hoyer brought up Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s attempt to restrict funding for the FBI’s new headquarters which “lost overwhelmingly” in a vote on Wednesday. Van Hollen echoed this sentiment

“I am confident that we will work with our colleagues to get it done because, as you heard in the House the other day, an effort to, I think, essentially claw back a lot of the monies that have already been there, lost,” said Van Hollen.

Moore didn’t touch on the Virginia officials’ comments, instead focusing on the benefits this project will bring Maryland and how Maryland is the right choice for the FBI. He also reiterated that the decision is final and his attention is now directed at moving forward with the project.

“There’s no more deliberation, there’s no more questioning. It’s over, the FBI building will be coming to Maryland and we could not be more excited,” said Moore. “This is going to bring over 7,500 jobs to the state of Maryland, will generate over $4 billion of economic activity and this is gonna solidify our state as the tech and the cyber capital of the United States.”

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Capital News Service

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Capital News Service is a student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. With bureaus in Annapolis and Washington run by professional journalists with decades of experience, they deliver news in multiple formats via partner news organizations and a destination Website.