NYC mayor deflects key questions on FBI probe, but he insists the law was followed
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Mayor Eric Adams declared that “we follow the law” but deflected key questions Tuesday about an FBI investigation into his 2021 campaign, while his lawyer said there were no signs that the inquiry was targeting the mayor.
After the FBI seized his phones and iPad last week, the first-term Democrat reiterated Tuesday that he was cooperating with what he called a “review” and said he wouldn’t speculate on its outcome.
Insisting that he didn’t want to impede the investigation, he and his chief City Hall lawyer declined to say whether other administration or campaign figures’ electronics were turned over, whether the FBI had asked to interview the mayor, or who or what another Adams attorney meant in saying last week that “an individual had recently acted improperly.”
But Zornberg did say that “there has been no indication that I’ve seen that the mayor is a target.”
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. The development prompted Adams to bail out of a scheduled White House meeting and fly home from Washington, later explaining he wanted to be among his staffers because “a leader needs to be here during those difficult times.”
Four days later after the search at Suggs’ home, FBI agents stopped Adams as he was leaving a public event, asked his police security detail to step away and took his electronic devices.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is overseeing the probe, is declining to comment. A spokesperson for Suggs has also declined to comment. Neither she nor Adams has been accused of wrongdoing.
The New York Times reported that a search warrant 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, despite concerns about the building’s fire prevention systems, according to the newspaper.
“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 Tuesday.
Weeks before the high-rise was due to open — with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cutting the ribbon — the country’s consul general in New York asked Adams to inquire about the status of the building’s occupancy permit. The document was on hold because the Fire Department had concerns about the fire-protection plan for the tower. Called the Turkevi Center, it houses offices and diplomatic facilities.
Adams, then Brooklyn’s borough president, had limited power over city government. But he was the Democratic nominee for mayor and widely expected to win.
Adams acknowledged Tuesday that he contacted then-Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro “to find out what was happening.”
But Adams said he didn’t order the commissioner to do anything, nor talk to any other fire officials about the building. The mayor said he was only fulfilling his duty as an elected official to help constituents navigate city government, and he said he had been thinking of Turkish constituents in Brooklyn.
“This is what we do every day. You reach out to an agency and ask them to look into the matter. You don’t reach out to an agency to compel them to do anything,” he said.
Nigro, now retired, declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.
According to The New York Times, a fire protection consultant working on the Turkevi Center reported numerous deficiencies involving smoke detectors, elevators, doors and other components used to prevent fires. After the consultant, Sparc Fire Protection Engineering, said guards would be put on a fire watch until all the issues were resolved, the fire department issued a temporary certificate allowing the building to be occupied.
Days later, on Sept. 21, 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut the ribbon on the Turkevi Center.
Messages seeking comment were sent Monday and Tuesday to Sparc and the Turkish consulate.
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.
Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela contributed from in Essex County, New Jersey.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.