FBI investigating whether Turkish government benefited from Adams' 2021 mayoral campaign: sources

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Mayor Adams deflects questions surrounding FBI fundraising probe
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N.J. Burkett has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Federal authorities are looking into whether the Turkish government benefited from donations to Eric Adams' 2021 mayoral campaign, sources say.

According to sources familiar with the case, then candidate Adams was asked by Turkish officials in September 2021 for help keeping the opening of the Turkevi Center, the 35-story new home of the Turkish Consulate on the East Side, on schedule. At that point, Adams had won the Democratic primary but was not yet elected mayor.

The building was said to be waiting for a temporary certificate of occupancy from the fire department, ahead of its scheduled grand opening later that month.

In a statement Sunday, Adams chalked this up to constituent services.

"As a Borough President, part of my routine role was to notify government agencies of issues on behalf of constituents and constituencies. I have not been accused of wrongdoing and I will continue to cooperate with investigators," the mayor's statement said.

WATCH | Breaking down FBI probe into Adam's mayoral campaign

Investigative reporter Dan Krauth breaks down the FBI investigation into Mayor Adam's campaign.

According to sources, Adams received a text from a Turkish government official asking if he knew then-FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. They say Adams reached out to Nigro on the matter, but it is not immediately clear whether he requested or directed him to do anything.

It is then said that Nigro texted back that the building would receive the required approval in time for a Sept. 20 opening. Turkish President Erdogan, in town for the United Nations General Assembly, presided.

"They believe he's got evidence of criminal activity on his phone," ABC News contributor Rich Frankel said. "He may be a witness, and it may not actually implicate him, but the fact that the FBI did it in that manner? Surprising."

In a statement, City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg said the mayor and the team are continuing to cooperate with investigators.

"We hope that investigators will continue to cooperate with us and reprimand any federal officer who has improperly leaked details about this investigation as such conduct could prejudice the public and undermines the integrity of our law enforcement process," the statement said.

On Monday, Adams deflected questions about the investigation while praising the potential for electric helicopters.

"You have to be focused, no distractions, and grind," he said. "And that's what this administration is about, straight ahead."

This all comes after FBI agents seized the mayor's electronic devices, including two phones and an iPad, following an event last Monday night, apparently to retrieve the Sept. 2021 text message exchanges.

Josh EIniger has the latest developments.

Mayor Adams confirmed on Friday that the FBI took his phone at the event.

Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Dan Krauth explains:

Investigative reporter Dan Krauth joins Mornings @ 10 to break down the investigation.

"As a former member of law enforcement, I expect all members of my staff to follow the law and fully cooperate with any sort of investigation and I will continue to do exactly that. I have nothing to hide," Adams said.

Campaign attorney Boyd Johnson said Adams handed over the devices after learning "an individual had recently acted improperly."

"In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, this behavior was immediately and proactively reported to investigators," Johnson said, stressing that "the mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing and continues to cooperate with the investigation."

The seizure of the devices, first reported by The New York Times, came days after federal agents searched the Brooklyn home of Adams' top campaign fundraiser, 25-year-old Brianna Suggs. That search prompted the mayor to cancel a planned trip to meet with White House officials in Washington and instead return to New York.

Suggs was home at the time of the raid on her house.

She was not arrested but it is possible she could be called at some point to testify before a grand jury.

Adams has said he will fully cooperate with investigators. The probe by federal authorities is looking into KSK Construction and whether the Williamsburg company, owned by Turkish immigrants, was improperly funneling Turkish money into the mayor's 2021 election campaign.

"I am outraged and angry if anyone attempted to use the campaign to manipulate our democracy and defraud our campaign," Adams said in a statement last week. "I want to be clear, I have no knowledge, direct or otherwise, of any improper fundraising activity and certainly not of any foreign money. We will of course work with officials to respond to inquiries, as appropriate as we always have."

Back in July, four people were charged in a scheme to raise money through straw donations for Adams' campaign. The defendants then intended to pressure the mayor's office for construction jobs.

Adams wasn't charged and a campaign spokesman said then "we would never tolerate these actions."

The former city buildings commissioner under Adams, Eric Ulrich, was also charged in September with using his position to dole out favors, including access to the mayor, in exchange for cash and other bribes.

Adams has distanced himself from both cases, which were brought in state court and did not directly implicate his campaign or administration.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

WATCH | Political analyst breaks down FBI raid on top fundraiser for Mayor Adams

Hank Sheinkopf has more on the possible implications of an FBI raid on Mayor Adam's top fundraiser.

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