The FBI and New York City federal prosecutors are currently investigating whether New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ 2021 campaign received illegal foreign donations amid speculation about his relationship with Turkish officials.
Authorities have been looking into Adams’ campaign finances since the spring, according to the New York Times; on Nov. 6, federal agents seized Adams’ electronic devices while he was leaving an event in New York.
“The mayor immediately complied with the FBI’s request and provided them with electronic devices,” Boyd Johnson, Adams’ attorney, said on Nov. 10. “The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing and continues to cooperate with the investigation.”
Just four days earlier, the FBI searched the home of Brianna Suggs, Adams’ 25-year-old chief fundraiser who helped the mayor raise more than $18 million for his election campaign.
Adams, who is running for re-election, has not been charged with any crimes. Here’s what to know about the investigation.
What is the investigation about?
While details about the investigation are still emerging, records obtained by the Times show that authorities are looking into whether Adams’ campaign colluded with Turkish officials to receive illegal campaign donations.
More specifically, agents are investigating financial donations made by KSK Construction, a building company owned by Turks that had a fundraising event for the mayor in May 2021, and donations by Bay Atlantic University made in September 2021. Both the construction company and college have ties to Turkey.
Nearly 50 donors—including KSK Construction’s owners and workers—gave the mayor a sum of $43,600 during the fundraiser organized by the construction company. Donations were then matched thanks to a city public matching funds program. The construction company did not build the consulate building in Manhattan.
New York City candidates can accept contributions from U.S. citizens or permanent residents who reside in the city. Campaigns cannot take donations from corporations or from a nominee contributor—which is a person who donates on the behalf of another person or entity. Candidates are required by law to file disclosure statements with the Campaign Finance Board.
How is Turkey involved?
Authorities allege Adams previously asked former Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro to sign off on a building that had not yet opened because of fire safety and permit issues, according to the Times. The building now holds the new Turkish consulate, apartments, exhibition space, and auditorium.
Adams’ actions allowed the project to open under a temporary permit in time for a September 2021 U.N. General Assembly meeting, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was present, the Times reported. Adams’ conversation with fire officials happened after he won the Democratic primary election, which practically cemented his mayoral win because New York City is a blue stronghold.
Adams has said his request to the fire commissioner was a routine part of his then-role as Brooklyn borough president. But, according to the Times, his job did not include inquiring about the consulate building in Manhattan.
On Tuesday during a press conference, Adams also denied that he “circumvented a commissioner.”
“I want to be very clear about reaching out to FDNY to assist my constituents, like all of the elected officials do in this city,” Adams said. “The commissioner was the person that I asked, Can you look into this? And that was all I spoke with.”
Public records also show that the Turkish consulate previously covered the partial cost of Adams’ visit to Turkey in 2015. That was done through a sister-city initiative—when officials travel to other cities for an economic or cultural exchange—during Adams’ time as borough president.
While abroad, Adams also visited Bahcesehir University. The founder of the school also founded Bay Atlantic University in the U.S. Warrants obtained by the Times show that agents are interested in donations from Bay Atlantic University employees. Adams’ received a first round of donations on Sep. 7, 2021. The mayor then received a sum of $10,000 from five university workers a week after the new consulate building was opened. None of the contributors who donated in late September live in the greater New York City area, CBS News reports. The donations were refunded a month later.
Why did officials search Brianna Suggs’ home?
Documents show that authorities are currently assessing the relationship between the mayor’s campaign and whether anyone had the intent to “provide benefits” to the Turkish government in exchange for financial contributions.
Federal agents searched Suggs’ Brooklyn home while looking for more information. They seized three iPhones, two laptops and a folder with the name “Eric Adams” on it, the warrants say.
Suggs has not commented about the investigation publicly but Adams has said, “[Suggs] has done an amazing job,” and that she will stay with the campaign team if she desires to.