Maryland lawmakers ask President Biden to intervene in FBI HQ process

WTOP: The competition between Maryland and Virginia over the new FBI headquarters picked up over the last week as both sides made what’s believed to be their final pitches to leaders from the GSA and FBI. Now, one side is asking President Joe Biden to get involved.

The day after their meeting, leaders from Maryland sent a three-page letter to the president asking him to also reiterate to GSA and FBI leaders what he expects out of the process, and made a public statement about racial equity that had been whispered in frustration for months.

The letter begins by citing a pair of executive orders issued by the president about equity on his first day in office, and a follow up last month. They argue that the decision of where to locate the new facility “has the potential to be a shining example of the integrity of your executive orders.”

The letter, signed by Gov. Wes Moore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, and every Democrat in Congress, goes on to say “the economic disparity between Prince George’s County and other jurisdictions in the National Capital Region did not materialize overnight. It is the result of a systemic imbalance in decision making over time about the sitting of federal offices and warehouses.”

Sticking with the equity theme, they go on to write that “the General Services Administration, at the behest of FBI leadership, has — at the 11th hour — so precisely engineered its decision-making criteria that the majority Black county cannot fairly compete.”

Virginia leaders have recently started arguing that the Springfield site would bring federal facilities to one of the most diverse areas of the country, putting it in line with the president’s guidance on taking racial equity into consideration. Maryland has countered saying diversity is not the same as equity, pointing out that Fairfax County overall is 64% white while Prince George’s is majority minority.

Following Thursday’s presentation, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said “equity in America today, and equity in terms of the needs of the FBI, reflect racial equity, reflect faith-based equity, reflect ethnic equity.”

“Springfield, African American, Latino, Asian-Pacific,” he added, “to ignore the broad breadth of equity in America would be a huge disappointment.

He and Sen. Tim Kaine also said they would rather not see the president get involved at this point, referring to the outrage from both jurisdictions when officials in the Trump administration “put their thumb on the scale and tried to slow down the process.”

While the Trump administration’s interference was reportedly for the former president’s own personal gain, Virginia officials said they think it would be a mistake for this White House to intervene in any circumstance.

“We don’t think asking somebody to put their thumb on the scale makes any sense here,” said Kaine, Virginia’s junior senator. “Usually where I come from … a thumb on the scale is a bad thing. We want to avoid thumbs on the scale rather than encourage and promote thumbs on scales.”

At the end of the meetings this week, officials involved in the selection process told both delegations they would take the information presented and begin the process of deciding, though it’s not clear when that will happen nor how long it will take. There’s no deadline and neither side was given any indication about a target date for a decision.

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