FBI Director Christopher A. Wray Thursday told a congressional panel there was no political pressure to rebuild the bureau’s headquarters in its current location rather than move it to a suburban location.
Democrats have questioned the White House’s role in the decision to abandon a plan to move the FBI to a suburban Washington, D.C., campus.
The FBI’s current downtown Washington location sits across from the Trump International Hotel. Democrats have alleged President Trump scuttled the move to block a rival hotel from springing up on the prime property.
But Mr. Wray told lawmakers it was in the bureau’s best interest to construct a new building on the same space.
“We took a very long, careful, thorough look, and it is the FBI’s view that the best balance of equities for the men and women of the FBI is to be here, downtown, ideally in our current location,” he said in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee.
By staying in its current location, FBI officials will be within “close proximity for the hundreds and hundreds of meetings they have every day with their partners all within about a mile and a half of our location,” Mr. Wray said.
When asked directly by Rep. Sam Graves, Missouri Republican, if political pressure influenced the decision, Mr. Wray said there was no pressure.
The FBI director also pushed for a new building, instead of renovating the current one. He said a new building would both improve security, but also allow the bureau to grow.
“When I worked in the FBI building a lot on 9/11 and the years after 9/11, the building was in bad shape then,” he said. “I can assure you it hasn’t gotten better since then.”
Last month, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy told the same House panel that Mr. Trump played no role in the project.
“To my knowledge then, and now, the president had no involvement in the FBI’s location decision,” she said.
Ms. Murphy appeared before lawmakers after it was revealed that she attended two meetings at the White House, including one with the president, about the project.
A GSA watchdog earlier this year concluded the agency misrepresented the price tag of the renovation plan, saying it would be more costly to rebuild the FBI headquarters than to move it.