NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams kept a busy public schedule Monday, but sidestepped questions about the FBI investigation that prompted agents to seize his phones and raid the home of his chief campaign fundraiser.
Speaking at Manhattan helipad where an air taxi company was demonstrating electric aircraft, Adams laughed, then walked away, when a reporter asked whether anyone else on his team had had their phone seized by the FBI.
“We're talking about helicopters,” the Democrat said, smiling. Later, he indicated he might answer questions during his next scheduled news briefing on Tuesday, but not until then.
FBI agents stopped Adams last week as he was leaving a public event and took his electronic devices, including phones and an iPad. The seizure came four days after agents searched the home of the lead fundraiser for his 2021 mayoral campaign, Briana Suggs.
The New York Times and New York Post have reported 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.
At the time, Adams was Brooklyn's borough president, a minor position in city government, but he had already won the Democratic mayoral primary and was seen as all but certain to win in the general election.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is overseeing the investigation, has declined to comment. A search warrant obtained by the Times indicated authorities are also examining whether the Adams campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal campaign contributions from foreign sources, funneled through straw donors.
While he ducked questions Monday, Adams said in a statement that he hadn't done anything wrong.
“As a borough president, part of my routine role was to notify government agencies of issues on behalf of constituents and constituencies,” Adams said in a statement issued by his campaign. “I have not been accused of wrongdoing, and I will continue to cooperate with investigators.”
The Turkevi Center opened near the United Nations on Sept. 21, 2021, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Roughly two months earlier, the city's Fire Department had rejected the fire-protection plan for the building, built to house Turkey's consulate and mission to the United Nations.
With Erdogan's planned visit to New York days away, Turkey's consul general reached out to Adams to inquire about the status of the tower's occupancy permit. Adams then contacted Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
The Times and Post reported that investigators had been examining Adams’ text messages and interviewing Fire Department officials, including Nigro, about the sequence of events that led to city officials authorizing the building to open.
The 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. Nevertheless, the city issued a temporary occupancy permit, clearing the way for Erdogan to open the facility.
A message seeking comment was left at a phone number connected to Nigro, who retired last year, and an email was sent as well. An email was also sent to the Turkish consulate, as well as the fire protection consultant.
Adams has continued to attend public events as news reports swirled about the investigation, including marching in the city's Veterans' Day parade on Saturday. His last fully open news conference with reporters, though, was on Wednesday, two days after FBI agents seized his phones — but before that search had become publicly known.
He told reporters at the time that he didn't think he had anything to fear from the investigation and that he would be shocked and “hurt” if someone who worked for his campaign did anything improper.
Adams didn't mention that the FBI had seized his devices.