- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2020

Senate Republicans’ coronavirus relief plan backed by the White House contains $1.75 billion for rebuilding the FBI’s headquarters in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who unveiled the roughly $1 trillion package on Monday, initially said he didn’t believe the money for the FBI construction was in the legislation. Told that it was, the Kentucky Republican said the administration insisted on it.

“You’ll have to ask them why they insisted that be included,” he told reporters.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, said it was an “administration proposal.”

President Trump has expressed an interest in rebuilding the headquarters, which is located about a block from the Trump International Hotel. Earlier plans envisioned relocating the agency’s headquarters outside Washington.

The GOP proposal said the money would enable the FBI to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.”

The president expressed support last week for rebuilding the FBI headquarters, but said he didn’t know if the money would be included in the GOP’s coronavirus relief bill.

“I don’t know that they’re putting it in this bill, but I know they want to have a new FBI building,” Mr. Trump said. “This one is very old, and it’s really — it was never built to a very high standard. And it’s got a lot of danger involved and panels falling off the outside and pieces of concrete falling off the building.”

He said some of the options for relocating it were “very far away from Washington.” The president said he prefers that it remain near the Justice Department.

“There’s nothing better than the site. The site they have now is better,” Mr. Trump said. “But they were looking in sites in Maryland and Virginia, in different places, but they would’ve been too far away.”

He said he has been “encouraging” the FBI to build a new building.

“You have a choice: You can renovate the existing building — but it’s not a good building — or you could take it down and build a great building for the FBI for 100 years and have it be incredible,” he said.

He suggested the new building could have a quarter-mile running track on the roof for agents who need to stay fit.

“I think the idea — the best idea would be to build a new building,” he said. “And that way, you have it for a long time. Renovation can never be as good as a new building, in that case. I know they’re talking about it, whether or not they put it in this bill or someplace else. But the FBI needs a new building, and we’ll get it done.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House subcommittee on Government Operations, blasted the administration’s request.

“More than 150,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, millions are unemployed, state and local governments are struggling to stay afloat, and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are more concerned about protecting Trump Hotel. That is shameful,” Mr. Connolly said.

The FBI headquarters opened in 1974. It cost about $126 million to build.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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