Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan grilled General Services Administration (GSA) Director Robin Carnahan at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, demanding answers about the chosen location for the proposed FBI headquarters.
Jordan began with queries about Director Wray’s concerns about a “conflict of interest” in the selection of the new headquarters location, which did not go to Springfield, Virginia as many had advocated. The location was instead chosen in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Congressman was particularly vocal about accusations that the FBI should not be getting a new location at all, due to claims that the agency has been politically weaponized against conservatives.
“I don’t want it to go either place (referring to Springfield and Greenbelt). I don’t think we should be rewarding the FBI with a [new location] – the same FBI that said pro-life Catholics were extremists, the same FBI that retaliated against whistleblowers, the same FBI that censored Americans… but I am concerned about [the GSA’s] process,” Jordan said.
Jordan then raised questions about Nina Albert, the GSA senior official who overruled the three-person panel’s recommendation to put the new headquarters in Virginia. Albert had previously worked for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA), which owns the land in Greenbelt.
“Maybe I’m wrong, but a three-person panel looked at all of this and they made a decision, and then that was overruled by Ms. Albert, who had been at GSA for all of two years, [then] she left before you guys made the decision public,” Jordan said.
Carnahan responded by describing the normal process for GSA site selections, but Jordan pressed her on an important detail. “How often have they been different?” he asked, referring to the times when an ultimate decision has been overruled by the real estate professional of the agency.
Carnahan responded that the most relevant time this had happened was with the new FBI headquarters, which was flipped twice since 2014. Jordan was unsatisfied and called for an investigation to reach the bottom of the decision process.
“That still begs the question I’m asking. So you’ve had it happen twice in the same project, how often does it happen anywhere else? That’s an important answer for us to have,” Jordan said. “An Inspector General investigation is exactly what is needed to get to the bottom of this.”
The GSA did not immediately respond to an inquiry about how many times a panel’s recommendation for site selection has been overruled by the senior real estate professional of the agency.
It was clear, however, that Jordan had a deep interest in the motives behind the decision to relocate the new FBI headquarters to Greenbelt, Maryland, instead of Springfield, Virginia. With allegations of cultural bias bubbling up for some time, Jordan’s call for an investigation into the selection process was rightfully seen as a fair request, which prompted Carnahan to take a closer look at the selection process for the project.
Though Carnahan expressed that her general counsel had found that all rules were followed in the decision to select Greenbelt as the new location for the FBI headquarters, Jordan was adamant to know exactly how often the decision of the three-person panel was overturned. Jordan’s passion did not go unnoticed as he concluded the exchange by saying, “And if we find this hardly ever happens but happened twice with the FBI headquarters, holy cow, that tells us something in of itself.”
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) November 14, 2023
It is not yet clear when the Inspector General investigation into the GSA’s selection process will be conducted, but regardless of the end result, this hearing provided an important opportunity for Congress to call for greater transparency and accountability in the selection process of the new FBI headquarters.