WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his push to use a coronavirus relief package to fund a new FBI headquarters near his Washington hotel despite opposition from fellow Republicans, citing his background as a real estate developer.
The bill, which is being negotiated in the Senate before the expiration of a number of provisions aimed at helping Americans stave off financial losses amid the coronavirus pandemic, is on rough ground with the White House at odds with both Democrats and Trump’s own Republicans over the measure.
Trump at first did not directly answer questions about whether he would drop his demand for $1.8 billion to fund a new FBI headquarters in downtown Washington. He later said the provision “should stay.”
“Republicans should go back to school and learn,” he told reporters at the White House, referring to opposition from conservative lawmakers. “I’m very good at real estate.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked about the provision this week, referred questions to the White House.
The Trump administration’s abrupt reversal of a years-long plan to relocate the FBI’s main office from the heart of the nation’s capital to the surrounding suburbs has drawn scrutiny since Trump scuttled the move in late 2017.
The FBI’s current headquarters is one block from the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and Democrats have accused Trump of seeking to prevent the sale of the site to a private developer and possible competitor. The matter is currently under review by the Department of Justice.
Trump, who still owns his company but has said his sons run its day-to-day operations, became disqualified from buying the FBI site when he became president in 2017. His ownership of the hotel as president has also faced lawsuits.
Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis
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