New York City Mayor Eric Adams laughed off suggestions he could face prosecution in a federal probe into his 2021 campaign’s ties to Turkey in his first public comments since his top fundraiser’s home was raided by the FBI last week.
Mr Adams confirmed he had lawyered up amid an investigation by the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan into whether his campaign conspired with the Turkish government to funnel illegal donations through a straw-donor scheme.
He adamantly denied any wrongdoing at a press conference on Wednesday, stating he was “shocked” by the suggestion his campaign staff could have committed illegal acts.
“Not only would it shock me, it would hurt me,” Mr Adams said during the media briefing while flanked by eight of his deputies at City Hall.
Mr Adams abruptly cut short a 2 November trip to Washington DC to discuss the migrant crisis with White House officials after FBI agents raided the Brooklyn home of his top campaign fundraiser Brianna Suggs.
Ms Suggs’s home was one of several properties raided as part of the probe into the alleged funnelling of tens of thousands of dollars to the Adams campaign through a Washington DC university and Brooklyn construction company with ties to Turkey, according to a search warrant obtained by The New York Times.
Explaining the decision to return to New York, Mr Adams said he had been concerned about the welfare of a “brilliant young lady” who he first hired as a teenager at Brooklyn Borough Council.
“I had a 25-year-old staffer that I saw grow up as an intern, that had a traumatising experience in her life,” Mr Adams said. "There was a professional part of maintaining, you know, my staff and my city.”
Mr Adams said he had not spoken with Ms Suggs on the day of the FBI raid to avoid the appearance of interference with the investigation but refused to “go into the exact particulars on what actions I did”.
He also denied prioritising his campaign over the needs of the city and maintained that solving the migrant crisis was the number one challenge facing his administration.
Mr Adams has enjoyed close ties with the Turkish-American community in New York and recently said he had travelled to the country six or seven times since 2015.
During Wednesday’s briefing, he said he had met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once at a reception while serving as Brooklyn borough president.
Mr Adams also had a small role in a Turkish language film shot in New York in 2017 called New York Masah, or Fairytale of New York, where was asked for political favours in Turkish by two actors.
Asked about his close ties to Turkey, Mr Adams told the press conference he had simply continued the strong relationship begun by his predecessor as Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz.
Plus, he likes to travel, he added.
Mr Adams has hired Brendan McGuire from the law firm WilmerHale to represent him in the investigation.
Mr McGuire, who had worked as the mayor’s chief counsel until returning to private practice last month, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Independent.
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