Eric Adams denies inappropriate Turkey lobbying: ‘We don’t do quid pro quo’

New York City mayor said he was ‘fully cooperating’ with federal investigation into Turkish campaign donations and lobbying in his first press conference since phone seizure

Bevan Hurley
Tuesday 14 November 2023 13:26 EST
FBI investigating Mayor Adams' campaign finances

Eric Adams has admitted lobbying the former FDNY commissioner over safety delays to the opening of a new Turkish consulate in New York in 2021, but denied there was anything out of ordinary about his request.

“We don’t do quid pro quo,” the New York CityMayor said on Tuesday, in his first public statements since news broke that his electronics had been seized by the FBI last week.

Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether Mr Adams crossed any lines during his time as Brooklyn borough president when he intervened to help the Turkish government secure approval to open a 35-story skyscraper near the United Nations.

Mr Adams texted the then-FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro about safety permit issues on a new building that would house the Turkish consulate, according to the New York Times.

According to the Times report, the FDNY had rejected the fire-protection plan for the building about two months earlier. 

NYC Mayor Eric Adams is reportedly under federal investigation over ties to Turkey

The Turkevi Center, also known as Turkish House, was opened on 21 September 2021, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Days before President Erdogan’s visit to New York, the Turkish consul general contacted Mr Adams to ask about the status of the tower’s occupancy permit, according to the Times. Mr Adams then contacted Fire Commissioner Nigro.

On Tuesday, Mr Adams’ denied knowing about the Turkish president’s visit and said his text asking the former fire commissioner to look into the delay was routine.

“This is what we do as elected officials, and I would be neglectful in my duties if a constituency reaches out to me and asks for assistance and I’m not giving them that assistance,” Mr Adams said at the City Hall press conference.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City in October

The US Attorney’s office in Manhattan is also investigating whether the mayor’s 2021 election campaign conspired with the Turkish government to funnel illegal donations through a straw-donor scheme.

The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and has adamantly denied any involvement in fundraising improprieties.

Asked if he would resign if he is indicted, the mayor tried to laugh off the question, saying “I’m not speculating on that. You’re all the way down field.”

City Hall chief counsel Lisa Zornberg repeatedly interjected as reporters posed questions to Mr Adams, stressing that the mayor’s campaign was “proactively cooperating” with the federal investigation.

She said she had seen nothing to suggest Mr Adams was the target of the probe, but refused to say whether any other campaign staffers had their devices seized.

Ms Zornberg said she expected any leaks coming out of the investigation would be “fully investigated by federal law enforcement”.

“It is all for the worse to have speculation and leaks to the press and commenting on dribs and drabs,” Ms Zornberg said. “We’re not going to do it.”

New York City mayor Eric Adams discusses a federal fundraising investigation surrounding his 2021 campaign at a press conference

FBI agents seized Mr Adams’ devices including cellphones and an iPad last Monday while he was attending a public event.

The seizure came four days after FBI agents raided the home of Mr Adams’ top fundraiser Brianna Suggs looking for evidence that his 2021 mayoral campaign had conspired with the Turkish government to funnel illegal donations through a straw-donor scheme.

Mr Adams abruptly cancelled meetings with White House officials in Washington DC over the migrant crisis and returned to New York to deal with “a matter,” a spokesperson said.

An attorney for the mayor told WNYC that his campaign had “discovered that an individual had recently acted improperly” and that the “behaviour was immediately and proactively reported to investigators.” 

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