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FBI HQ controversy reaches campaign trail as GOP hopeful proposes removing J. Edgar Hoover's name

President Richard Nixon in 1972 called for the structure to be named after the longtime FBI director.

Published: July 19, 2023 11:59pm

Updated: July 20, 2023 8:16am

Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson is the latest to take a swipe at the FBI's beleaguered headquarters in Washington, D.C. – recently found to be the "ugliest" building in the country.

Hutchinson called for the renaming of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, named after the agency's sixth director. 

"I think you ought to give thought to changing the name of the FBI headquarters from the Hoover Building," Hutchinson said Monday in a comment directed to Congress, during a speech in the nation's capital.

"I think that's reminiscent of a time in FBI history that did not protect civil liberties and did not even have a regard for civil liberties. It's really an image that you want the FBI to get away from."

President Richard Nixon in 1972 proposed naming the structure after Hoover, two days after Hoover's death. Congress then enacted legislation formally naming the structure after Hoover that Nixon promptly signed into law. 

Pivoting to a topic popular among GOP voters, Hutchinson, a former Arkansas governor, dove into the job performance of current Director Christopher Wray.

"Under Chris Wray, they've had some reform, and so I want to applaud him for progress," he said. "We just need more progress and more reform."

In 2021, Virginia Democrat Rep. Gerry Connolly reintroduced legislation to establish a commission to review the name of the headquarters and provide recommendations on renaming it. 

More recently, the General Services Administration is in the process of choosing the location of the new headquarters, with the finalists being Fairfax County, Virginia, and Prince George's County, Maryland.

Even the FBI has been critical of its own home, saying it is "obsolete, inefficient and faces a number of security vulnerabilities."

Just days ago, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, an outspoken critic of the bureau's probe into possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, suggested the headquarters be relocated to Alabama. 

The survey that found the headquarters to be the ugliest building in the country was conducted by the home improvement company Buildworld and released in January.

Hutchinson on Monday blasted calls from some Republicans, such as fellow GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy, to dismantle or abolish the FBI.

"That is just plain wrong," he said. "It is, you know, not in the best tradition of my party, where we support the rule of law.  We're a party of law and order. And so this is where [former President] Donald Trump has done great damage because there's so much sympathy for what happened in 2016." 

However, he pointed out former that Justice Department special counsel John Durham, in his final report on the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, criticized the FBI, accusing the agency of having acted negligently by opening the investigation based on vague and insufficient information. 

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