'No indication' that NYC mayor is a target of FBI investigation, City Hall lawyer says
New York City Mayor Eric Adams deflected more questions Tuesday about an FBI investigation into his 2021 campaign, saying revealing too much would “interfere” with law enforcement, but defended his ethics and laughed off a question about whether he expected to be indicted.
“There has been no indication that I’ve seen that the mayor is a target,” added his chief legal counsel at City Hall, Lisa Zornberg.
The federal investigation burst into public view on Nov. 2 when agents searched the home of Adams’ chief fundraiser during his 2021 mayoral campaign, Briana Suggs. Four days later, FBI agents stopped Adams as he was leaving a public event, asked his police security detail to step away and took his electronic devices.
Speaking to reporters for about 45 minutes, Adams wouldn’t answer questions about whether phones or computers were seized from any other members of his administration or campaign, or explain a cryptic statement from one of his lawyers last week, who said that the campaign had “discovered than an individual had recently acted improperly."
“My role is to allow them to do their job without interference,” Adams said about the FBI investigation.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is overseeing the probe, has declined to comment. A spokesperson for Suggs has also declined to comment. Neither she nor Adams have been publicly accused of wrongdoing.
A search warrant obtained by The New York Times indicated authorities have been examining whether the Adams campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal campaign contributions from foreign sources, funneled through straw donors.
Investigators have also looked into whether Adams took steps in 2021 to help the Turkish government get city approval to open a Manhattan skyscraper containing offices and diplomatic facilities, despite concerns about the building’s fire prevention systems, according to the newspaper.
Adams acknowledged reaching out once to the city’s fire commissioner about the tower, the Turkevi Center. But he said he was only fulfilling his duty as an elected official to “help constituents navigate the system.”
“We don’t do the straw donors. We don’t, you know, do quid pro quo. We follow the law. I’m very clear on that,” Adams said.
The Turkevi Center opened on Sept. 21, 2021, with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there to cut the ribbon.
Weeks beforehand, Turkey’s consul general reached out to Adams to inquire about the status of the tower’s occupancy permit, which at the time was being held up by the city’s Fire Department over concerns about the new building’s fire-protection plan.
At the time, Adams was still Brooklyn’s borough president. As such, he had limited power over city government, but he had won the Democratic mayoral primary and was widely expected to win the general election.
Adams acknowledged that he contacted Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who has since retired, “to find out what was happening.” But he said he didn’t order the commissioner to do anything or follow up with other fire officials. He added that he trusted Nigro to handle things the right way.
“This is what we do as elected officials,” Adams said, adding that he was thinking of Turkish constituents in the city.
The New York Times reported that a fire protection consultant working on the project reported numerous deficiencies with the building involving smoke detectors, elevators, doors and other components used to prevent fires. The fire department issued a temporary certificate to occupy the building after the consultant said guards would be put on a fire watch until all the issues were resolved.
Adams urged people to let the investigation take its course. Asked whether he would resign if indicted, Adams seemed taken aback.
“I’m not going to speculate on that. You’re all the way downfield,” Adams said, chuckling.