MARYLAND — Leaders from Maryland sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday that cited the FBI's racist practices against civil rights leaders, with the hope that the president will ensure racial equity is taken into consideration in the federal government’s decision on where a new FBI headquarters complex is built.
The letter, signed by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, and the state’s Democratic members of Congress, was sent to Biden on the same day that Virginia leaders were making what is believed to be their final pitch to get Springfield, Virginia, selected as the new home of the FBI.
The General Services Administration is expected to make a final selection soon on the FBI's new headquarters among three sites: two in Prince George's County and one in Springfield.
In their letter, the Maryland officials cited two executive orders issued by Biden about equity and emphasized that building the new FBI headquarters in Prince George’s County would put those executive orders into practice.
“Today, we write to call your attention to a crucial decision pending before your administration — a decision that has the potential to be a shining example of the integrity of your executive orders and an opportunity to right the wrongs of decades of systemic racism and discrimination by our nation’s marquis law enforcement agency,” the Maryland leaders wrote in the letter.
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Officials from Maryland met with the General Services Administration on Wednesday to make their case for the FBI’s new headquarters getting built in Prince George’s County.
By selecting Prince George’s County as the new home to the FBI headquarters, the Biden administration “is presented with a legacy-defining decision that has the potential to not only mark the start of a new chapter for the FBI, but also create a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for a majority African American community,” the Maryland leaders said.
READ ALSO: Moore, MD Officials Push For FBI Headquarters In Prince George's Co.
The FBI, under former director J. Edgar Hoover — the namesake of the current headquarters building — spent years on surveillance of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., they wrote in the letter
"Given this history, the decision of where to site the future headquarters of the FBI has the potential to send a message to the nation that the racism that permeated Hoover’s FBI, that sought to 'discredit, disrupt and destroy' civil rights leaders, is remembered in history, but that a new chapter has begun," the Maryland leaders said.
In making the case for Virginia becoming the new home of the FBI headquarters, Virginia officials have said that the Springfield site has top-notch access to a range of critical facilities, including the FBI National Academy in Quantico. The proposed site in Springfield also is located in a majority-minority community.
At a news conference on Thursday after meeting with the GSA, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), in response to Maryland officials asking Biden to weigh in on the selection process, said he does not believe asking "somebody to put their thumb on the scale makes any sense here."
"Where I come from, a thumb on the scale is a bad thing," Kaine said. "We want to avoid thumbs on scales."
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said Maryland and Virginia were outraged when the Trump administration "put their thumb on the scale." The Trump administration’s interference in the decision on a new FBI headquarters was viewed as a decision made for the former president’s own personal gain, WTOP reported Friday. Trump was accused of supporting a move to keep the FBI headquarters in D.C. so competitors of his downtown hotel couldn't purchase the building site.
When asked at the news conference whether Fairfax County, as one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., would lose out as much as Prince George's County from an equity standpoint if not selected as the site for the new FBI headquarters, Warner emphasized that the Springfield site scores well on racial equity, faith-based equity and ethnic equity.
Kaine said the location of the new FBI headquarters will be the first major site decision made by the GSA that includes a specific equity component. "We embrace that," he said. "We just assert that the Springfield site meets and exceeds the equity criteria."
The senators said the GSA did not give them a timeline on when a decision will be made on the new headquarters when they met on Thursday. But Warner added: "This process — we're close to 12 years now — it's gone on way too long."