Wray emphasized that the agency’s objection was not with the Greenbelt site, but rather with the appearance of improprieties in the process, writing that “we have concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA’s failure to adhere to its own site selection plan.” He added that “despite our engagement with GSA over the last two months on these issues, our concerns about the process remain unresolved.”
It was also revealed on Thursday that Wray had sent a letter to GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan on Oct. 12 raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest by the senior political appointee at GSA who diverged from the panel’s recommendation. The FBI was concerned that “the Greenbelt parcel of land is owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which was the senior official’s immediate prior employer,” according to the internal FBI message.
While the senior official was not named in Wray’s message to employees, GSA documents published on Thursday indicate that the official in question was Nina Albert, the GSA’s then-commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, who had worked for WMATA from 2016 to 2021.
Albert, who now serves as the District of Columbia’s acting deputy mayor for planning and economic development, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the FBI headquarters decision.
Wray’s rare public rebuke was immediately seized upon by Virginia lawmakers from both parties, who are calling for the FBI to honor the initial decision of the three-person panel and choose a proposed site in Springfield, Va., for which they had lobbied extensively.
In a joint statement, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, and eight members of the state’s House delegation said that “it is clear that this process has been irrevocably undermined and tainted, and this decision must now be reversed.”
The GSA is rejecting Wray’s claims, with Carnahan saying in a statement that “any suggestion that there was inappropriate interference is unfounded. The choice of Greenbelt, Maryland, is fully consistent with the decision-making process as well as all laws, regulations, and ethical considerations.”
“We stand behind the process, the decision, and all of the public servants who carefully followed the process and made a good decision on behalf of the FBI and the public,” Carnahan continued.
The GSA also published a Nov. 3 letter that Carnahan sent Wray in which she told the FBI director she “had directed GSA’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to do a thorough review of our process and the issues raised in your letter.”
That review, the findings of which were summarized in a memo provided to the FBI and published online by the GSA, determined that Albert’s potential conflicts of interest in the process were appropriately handled. It also found that the situation did not necessitate initiating a new site-search process.
The White House is standing behind the GSA. Aboard Air Force One on Thursday, the White House principal deputy press secretary, Olivia Dalton, told reporters, “I can tell you it was a fair and transparent process.”
“The 61 acres in Greenbelt is both the lowest cost to taxpayers, most transportation options for FBI workers, and we had the most assurances about the expeditious means with which a project could get underway,” Dalton said.
On Wednesday evening, the GSA announced that a new FBI headquarters would be built in Greenbelt, capping off a yearslong push to relocate the nation’s top law enforcement agency from the crumbling J. Edgar Hoover building in downtown Washington.
The selection process, which dragged on for a decade because the Trump administration put the relocation push on ice, had sparked a cross-Potomac battle between Maryland and Virginia, as both states duked it out for a chance to host the new campus and reap the benefits of a major federal project for underserved communities in their states.
The Marylanders pushed for sites in Greenbelt and Landover, both suburbs of D.C. in majority-Black Prince George’s County. The Maryland bids were championed by Rep. Steny Hoyer, who stepped down this year after serving for two decades as the number two Democrat in the House, and the state’s Democratic governor, Wes Moore. The bids also had the backing of national civil rights groups.
Virginia, meanwhile, fought for the Springfield site, which is close to the FBI’s training center in Quantico. Virginia officials widely condemned the GSA’s announcement on Wednesday.