WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressman from Virginia is questioning the ethics of having a company with ties to President Donald Trump among the competitors to build a proposed new headquarters for the FBI — a $2 billion project Maryland officials hope will be built in Prince George's County.
Rep. Gerry Connolly of Northern Virginia, where officials also are vying for the building, said reports that Vornado Realty Trust is one of three finalists to build the headquarters suggest a conflict of interest. The New York-based firm currently owns other buildings with Trump and the family of Jared Kushner, the president's son in law and adviser.
"It's a prima facie case of a conflict of interest," Connolly told The Baltimore Sun in an interview. "Both the Trump organization and the Kushner organization have ongoing, long-term business ties… that would put, in my view, a serious taint on the award of a contract [for] the juiciest real estate development opportunity in recent memory here in Washington."
Maryland and Virginia have been competing for the project, and its estimated 11,000 jobs, for years. Trump has never spoken about it publicly and did not include funding for the headquarters in his budget proposal. The General Services Administration announced in March that it would delay moving forward with the building until Congress sets aside more money for it.
Vornado is a partial owner with the Trump Organization of buildings in New York and San Francisco. The company is run by Steven Roth, who has been advising Trump on his plans to revamp infrastructure.
Vornado did not respond to a request for comment from The Sun. A spokesman for the Kushner Companies declined to comment.
"Jared takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration," the White House said in a statement.
The GSA, which is overseeing the process, has declined to confirm which companies are vying for the project. The agency has said that two sites in Prince George's County and one in Northern Virginia are finalists for the building.
The site associated with Vornado would have been selected by the Obama administration.
Vornado's interest in the project was first reported by The Washington Post in December.
Connolly said he wants to ensure the process of choosing between Maryland and Virginia remains fair.
Maryland Policy & Politics
"We just want to make sure that it's an ethically clear decision and that it's a level playing field so that we can compete without political interference," the congressman said.
A leading justification offered by supporters of a new building is that the FBI's current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, cannot accommodate all the agency's employees. The headquarters workforce is scattered among about two dozen annex buildings in the Washington region.
Opened in 1975, the Hoover building also needs an estimated $80.5 million in repairs and upgrades. Parts of the building have been covered in netting to prevent falling chunks of concrete from hitting the sidewalk. The builder of the new headquarters also would win the right to redevelop the Hoover property, located in a sought-after corridor of the city.
Through leadership changes and fights over spending, the GSA has been inching forward on the development, narrowing down the number of sites and collecting public input. In 2014, the agency said the project would be built at one of three locations: Greenbelt or Landover in Maryland, or Springfield, Va.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.