RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A bipartisan group of Virginia leaders, including its Republican governor and two Democratic U.S. senators, said the decision to relocate the FBI’s national headquarters to Maryland should be reversed – voicing concerns of a “tainted” process.
The group, including Virginia’s congressional delegation apart from three Republicans, had pitched Springfield, Virginia, as the best site for the new headquarters, a view that a three-person selection panel unanimously agreed with.
But a senior official at the General Services Administration, the federal agency charged with picking the site, rejected the recommendation and chose Greenbelt, Maryland.
The official, a political appointee identified in documents as Nina Albert, GSA’s former public buildings commissioner, had worked for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the owner of the Greenbelt site.
With the headquarters expected to lead to billions in tax revenue, the decision drew outrage from Virginia leaders, which grew after news broke about the FBI director raising concerns to the GSA’s administrator.
The letter from FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to the GSA and a subsequent message he sent to FBI employees the day after the final decision, first reported by The Washington Post, pointed to potential conflicts of interest.
“In particular, the FBI observed that, at times, outside information was inserted into the process in a manner which appeared to disproportionately favor Greenbelt, and the justifications for the departures from the panel were varied and inconsistent,” Wray wrote to FBI employees in a message obtained by 8News.
U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner expressed deep concerns in press calls Thursday, with Warner calling for an inspector general investigation and Kaine describing Wray’s letter as a “bombshell.”
“Any fair weighing of the criteria points to a selection of Virginia,” they later wrote in a joint statement with Gov. Youngkin and the congressional delegation except for Republican Reps. Bob Good, H. Morgan Griffith and Ben Cline. “It is clear that this process has been irrevocably undermined and tainted, and this decision must now be reversed.”
Robin Carnahan, the GSA’s administrator, disputed Wray’s claims, calling them “inaccurate” and saying he worked to address the FBI’s concerns and conducted legal reviews of each.
“Any suggestion that there was inappropriate interference is unfounded,” Carnahan said in a statement. “The choice of Greenbelt, Maryland, is fully consistent with the decision-making process as well as all laws, regulations, and ethical considerations.”
Carnahan added that the GSA stands behind the process and was releasing relevant records for transparency, which included a document in which he authorized Albert to work on the headquarters project.
Kaine and Warner also made claims of political interference Thursday, questioning the Biden administration, and even comparing it to Trump’s.
“The career professionals, GSA, FBI said Virginia won. And now you’ve got this political decision,” Warner told the press. “Again, this is the kind of behavior I’d expect from the Trump administration. I expected better from this administration.”
“This is not over,” Kaine said Thursday.