The former General Services Administration official who made the ultimate decision about where to relocate the FBI’s headquarters has spoken out about her role for the first time, and said she has no problem talking again if she’s asked to appear before Congress on the matter.
Nina Albert, who earlier this year left her job overseeing the federal government’s real estate portfolio, told reporters she’s already heard from the House Oversight and Judiciary committees about testifying, but that a firm date on when that will happen hasn’t been established.
In the days after the decision was made public, both the head of the FBI and lawmakers from Virginia have questioned Albert’s role in the process. FBI Director Chris Wray raised concerns about conflicts of interest, because of Albert’s past employment with Metro, which owns the land in Greenbelt, Maryland, where the new headquarters was selected to be built.
The GSA’s top lawyer has cleared Albert of any potential conflict.
Wray said he also had questions about the fairness and transparency of the process that led to Greenbelt being chosen.
“Actually, everything’s quite transparent and open book,” Albert said. “GSA, on their website, has all of the documents that explain what my decision making process was, what the site selection process was. And obviously, I’ll cooperate because it’s very important that the American people understand what went into that process.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also said the American people can expect Albert, who left GSA to take on the role as Bowser’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, to answer any lingering questions. But she also chided those who have attacked Albert’s integrity and character in the process.
“It should be obvious to everyone that a decision like this is going to have some people on one side who aren’t too happy about it,” Bowser said. “But that gives them no reason, and they should be very careful in accusing people who are doing their job and making tough decisions of anything that is not proper.”
Bowser credited Albert with being willing to do what she thought was right.
“What I understand that people respect is the ability to make tough decisions, no matter who is trying to bully you one way or the other,” Bowser said.
Those comments came just a few days after the GSA’s Office of the Inspector General announced it would evaluate the decision, following outcry from leaders in Virginia. Since then, leaders in Maryland have pointed out that their colleagues across the Potomac have been mischaracterizing the IG’s interest, saying there’s a notable distinction between an evaluation, which is what the GSA’s IG promised, and an investigation, which is what Virginia’s elected leaders have been calling it.
On the same day Albert spoke, Virginia lawmakers also asked the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to pause the relocation process, something an Inspector General evaluation doesn’t do. So far, there has been no response by the OMB.
In response to the Virginia lawmakers’ letter to the OMB, Maryland lawmakers released a statement reading, in part: “In 2022, both the Virginia Delegation, as well as the Maryland Delegation, agreed that the GSA ought to make this site selection decision ‘expeditiously,’ to ensure the hardworking men and women of the FBI would have a headquarters that would meet their vital national security mission. Now, the Virginia Delegation believes that the process should only move expeditiously if that decision benefits Virginia.”