Mayor Eric Adams offers most extensive comments yet into FBI investigation into his 2021 campaign

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Mayor Eric Adams makes most extensive comments as FBI continues investigation
N.J. Burkett is live at City Hall with the latest details.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Mayor Eric Adams offered his most extensive public comments yet amid the FBI investigation that prompted agents to seize his phones and raid the home of his chief campaign fundraiser.

His chief counsel insists there is no indication the mayor is a target of the federal campaign finance investigation, but sources say the feds are investigating whether Adams' campaign received illegal donations from Turkey and whether Turkey benefited from political favors.

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 on Tuesday, 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."

It is believed that part of the investigation involves examining whether Adams inappropriately tried to help the government of Turkey get city approval to open a 35-story skyscraper housing diplomatic facilities in 2021, despite concerns about the tower's fire safety systems.

On Tuesday, Adams said he contacted then Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro when a Turkish official expressed concern that its new East Side building would not open on time in September 2021. But he said he was only fulfilling his duty as an elected official to "help constituents navigate the system."

Adams said it is normal for elected officials to look into constituent concerns, and as Brooklyn has the largest Turkish community in the city, it was only natural for him to forward the question to Nigro.

"This is what elected officials do, when a constituency reaches out to us for assistance to another agency, we reach out to the agency,' Adams said. "I don't think there's an elected official in the city, like many of them reached out to me and said, 'Eric, this is what we do every day,' you reach out to an agency and ask them to look into a matter, you don't reach out to an agency to compel them to anything, because I had no authority to do anything, I was the borough president."

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.

"We are talking about Commissioner Nigro, over 50 years of being a firefighter, a 9/11 hero," Adams said. "He's an optimum hero, I'm sure he's going to take the necessary question and if was able to do something, he would, and if he couldn't, he couldn't."

The probe into that conversation apparently led to FBI agents briefly seizing the mayors cell phones and iPad.

The mayor and his chief counsel declined to elaborate on that investigation, other than to say "we're fully cooperative."

"We don't do the straw donor, we don't do quid pro quo," the mayor stressed. "I know what I tell my team all the time: follow the law."

"There's no indication that I've seen that the mayor is a target" of a federal investigation, chief counsel Lisa Zornberg, a former federal prosecutor, added, jumping in to answer several questions for the mayor on Tuesday.

Asked if he would resign if indicted, the mayor laughed laugh off the question.

"I'm not speculating on that, you're all the way down field," Adams said, vowing to continue to do his job as mayor.

As part of the investigation, sources say the mayor surrendered other phones voluntarily last week.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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