The Republican coronavirus stimulus proposal includes funds for the design and construction of a new FBI headquarters at the request of the Trump administration.
The bill includes $1.75 billion “for the design and construction of a Washington, D.C. headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” according to the bill text.
The provision comes after the administration’s successful push for the funds caused significant problems during the intraparty negotiations. But the funding could still face an uncertain future, with at least two key Republicans withholding full support.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially indicated at a news conference Monday that he was not aware the FBI provision was in the bill but then moments later said the White House “insisted that be included.”
“I’m not sure that it is,” McConnell replied to a reporter when he was first asked why the money was in the Senate GOP proposal.
An appropriations aide to McConnell then interjected and explained off camera to everyone in the room: “There’s a limitation to honing specifically to Covid-related matters, so we’ll get more information for you.”
McConnell was then asked if it was possible an almost $2 billion could be in the measure without his knowledge, and he seemed to suggest he was aware.
“Well, in regard to that proposal, obviously we had to have an agreement with the administration in order get started. And they will have to answer the question as to why they insisted on that.”
Asked if he supported it being in there, he said, “You’ll have to ask them why they insisted that be included.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham also said he’s “not particularly” supportive of the funding being included in the bill.
Asked why it had made it into the proposal, the South Carolina Republican said Monday, “I guess you gotta build a building.”
“This is the last thing to leave the station but I’m not so sure it’s Covid-related,” he said, referring to the bill. “It doesn’t technically have to be Covid related - I just don’t know why we’re doing that.”
Another senior Republican close to the talks lamented the decision to include it: “I can’t imagine it’s a helpful thing to have in there.”
The Trump administration and specifically President Donald Trump have long been involved in plans surrounding FBI headquarters.
The Justice Department’s inspector general said last year that it would probe a decision to scrap plans to move the FBI headquarters out of Washington to the district’s suburbs, a decision that may have benefited Trump’s nearby hotel.
Plans to relocate the FBI from the aging Hoover building, which had been in the works since at least 2012, could have resulted in the construction of a hotel to compete with Trump’s hotel a block away.
But in 2017 and early 2018, the FBI’s new leadership began to reconsider, preferring to stay in the nation’s capital. Government property managers at the General Services Administration called off prior development plans.
The decision ultimately went to the White House, and was discussed in an Oval Office meeting with the President.
In late 2018, senior House Democrats said they had reviewed documents indicating that Trump was “directly involved with the decision to abandon the long-term relocation plan and instead move ahead with the more expensive proposal to construct a new building on the same site, and thereby prevent Trump Hotel competitors from acquiring the land.”
The White House pushed back, with then-press secretary Sarah Sanders asserting at the time that “the President wanted to save the government money and also the FBI leadership did not want to move its headquarters.”
A financial analysis conducted by the GSA’s inspector general, however, concluded that constructing a new FBI building in downtown Washington “would actually be more costly” than relocating the bureau.
The funding in Monday’s stimulus plan also isn’t the administration’s first effort to bankroll a new FBI headquarters.
In early 2018, the White House proposed more than $2 billion in funding for a new FBI headquarters, infusing cash into a stalled effort to replace the building.
CNN’s Gregory Wallace, Lauren Fox and David Shortell contributed to this report.