As if he didn’t have enough on his plate between renovating Air Force One and pondering how to add a ballroom to the White House (and whatever presidential duties he squeezes in after “executive time”), Axios reports that President Trump has been “obsessed with the FBI building” for months. The J. Edgar Hoover Building has been added to his list of frequent rant topics, and Axios says he thinks micromanaging the project is a good way for his sidelined chief of staff to occupy his time.
That source said Trump told Chief of Staff John Kelly he wants to oversee the project at an excruciating level of detail: the cost per square foot, the materials used, the renovation specs, etc. He’s treating it like it’s a Trump Organization construction project, the source added.
But why is Trump so interested in providing his foes in the FBI with cushier headquarters? Here are some possibilities.
Theory 1: Trump Is an Architecture Snob
An Axios source said that during one of his tirades against the FBI, Trump called out the bureau for having an aesthetically displeasing headquarters.
“Even the building is terrible,” he said. “It’s one of the brutalist-type buildings, you know, brutalist architecture. Honestly, I think it’s one of the ugliest buildings in the city.”
Brutalism was popular, particularly for government buildings, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when the Hoover Building was designed and constructed. But Trump isn’t the only one who considers it an eyesore.
Theory 2: Trump Has a Passion for Construction That Won’t Be Denied
In response to the story, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders suggested it’s totally natural for the president to be fixated on the new FBI building because that’s how he made his fortune.
“POTUS is always interested in building because he knows it better than anyone and has been very successful in it,” she said. “He’s found [the General Services Administration] to be on it, ‘very impressive’ and ‘knowledgeable’ are the phrases he has used.”
Theory 3: FBI Headquarters Is Literally Falling Apart
Unlike his quest to give Air Force One a “more American” paint job, which no one else was calling for, there’s long been bipartisan agreement that the Hoover Building is inadequate. The Washington Post reported in 2015:
Beneath the headquarters of America’s premier crime-fighting organization, one of the parking ramps has been condemned because corroded pieces of the ceiling were falling on cars.
Netting hangs on the Ninth Street facade to prevent broken concrete from hitting passersby 160 feet down on the sidewalk below. During a July fire drill, half of the building’s alarms didn’t go off.
For more than a decade, leaders at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have warned that the bureau needed to replace the J. Edgar Hoover Building, a concrete fortress designed as a symbol of strength that has instead come to serve as a lesson in government inaction.
Though the building was obviously unsuitable, Congress was hesitant to provide funding for new construction — and then the Trump administration abruptly altered plans for the FBI’s new home. For years the General Services Administration had pressed for a new facility in the D.C. suburbs where the FBI could consolidate all 11,000 personnel. But in February, the Trump administration proposed demolishing the Hoover Building and building a new FBI headquarters in its place — along with spreading FBI personnel throughout the country.
The new plan is to keep 8,300 FBI staffers in D.C., split between the new downtown building and the bureau’s Quantico, Virginia, training academy. Another 2,300 staffers would be relocated to Alabama, Idaho, and West Virginia. The White House infrastructure plan included $2.175 billion for the new building, which, combined with previously allotted funds, would bring the total to $3.3 billion.
Many were shocked and perplexed by the change of plans, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. “This sudden and unexpected decision by the Trump administration raises serious questions about what or who could have motivated such a decision,” he said. “Why the Trump administration would so suddenly forgo years of study that led to careful recommendations — not to mention the millions of dollars spent in the effort to move the Bureau’s headquarters — is beyond astounding, and quite frankly, extremely alarming.”
The GSA’s inspector general said it would look into the decision.
Theory 4: The FBI Building Mars the View From the Trump International Hotel
Maybe Trump wants to make sure federal law enforcement officials can carry out their work in an attractive, secure, state-of-the-art facility. Or maybe he’s more interested in shielding guests at the Trump International Hotel D.C. from the hideous building that sits diagonally opposite on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Theory 5: Trump Always Wants to Be Number One
In 2012, a travel website dubbed the Hoover Building the “ugliest building in the world.” Number eight on that list: New York’s Trump Tower. “Downright dull on the outside, dizzyingly gaudy on the inside, this outdated building is generally only visited by tourists as it is almost universally avoided by actual New Yorkers,” Trippy.com said of the future president’s home.
Once the FBI headquarters is demolished, Trump Tower will be one step closer to world domination. Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame better watch its back.