By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats said on Wednesday that a U.S. government agency was responding too slowly to their requests for documents about the Trump administration’s abandonment of a plan to move the FBI out of its headquarters near President Donald Trump’s downtown Washington hotel.
Compliance with the requests has been “woefully inadequate,” said the Democratic chairs of five House of Representatives committees in a letter to Emily Murphy, chief of the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal property agency.
Before he became president in January 2017, Trump supported moving the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters to the suburbs of Washington, said Democrats looking into the matter.
They said that after Republican Trump was elected and disqualified from bidding to acquire the site for commercial development, however, he switched his position.
Trump’s about-face would “block potential competitors from developing the existing property on Pennsylvania Avenue across the street from the Trump Hotel,” the Democrats said.
Their inquiry is one of numerous investigations into the president, his administration and his businesses, ranging from his efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow to whether he has obstructed justice in a probe of his 2016 election campaign’s ties to Russia.
The Trump International Hotel on historic Pennsylvania Avenue is across the street from the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover building, a decaying concrete fortress completed in 1974 that is today too small for the agency.
Plans to move the FBI to the Washington suburbs were abruptly canceled by the Trump administration in 2017. Democrats have subsequently raised questions about a possible Trump conflict of interest.
Trump favors replacing the old FBI building with a new structure on the same site.
The Democratic lawmakers also questioned “why the White House and GSA allowed President Trump to participate directly in a decision that affects his own personal financial interests.”
The GSA had no immediate comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The committee heads said that in October they requested eight categories of documents related to the planned FBI headquarters move.
At a meeting with GSA officials in December, the Democrats said, the agency produced a few “highly redacted documents” covering a “narrow time period” but that the agency has “produced no additional documents since that time.”
The Democrats said that if the GSA failed to comply with their latest request, they will be “forced to consider alternative means to obtain compliance.” Some of the committee heads have subpoena power.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Grant McCool)