One off-topic question was off limits at New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ weekly media briefing on Tuesday.
Had law enforcement confiscated the phones of any other Adams administration officials besides the mayor? Three times during the briefing, Adams declined to answer. Last week, the mayor surrendered multiple devices to federal authorities as part of a probe into his 2021 campaign.
“This is an ongoing review, and as a former member of law enforcement, it is always my belief: Don’t interfere with an ongoing review, and don’t try to do these reviews through the press,” Adams said on Tuesday. “We are fully cooperating. Whatever the reviewers are looking for, we are fully cooperating with it. And my role is to allow them to do their job without interference. And I have to do my job of continuing to make sure this city navigates the various issues that we are facing.”
When that question was asked again by a different reporter, City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg stepped in to shut it down. “Again, we’re not going to impede a federal investigation in any way,” Zornberg said. “I’ll repeat what I’ve said, which is that we’re fully cooperative, and will continue to be.”
When a third reporter posed the question, they anticipated Zornberg’s response and asked why answering that question would interfere with the investigation. “I can guarantee you that the U.S. Attorney’s office does not want their investigation playing out in the press in dribs and drabs, and through leaks,” Zornberg said. “That’s not the way they operate. It serves no one.”
Since last week’s briefing, news reports indicated the federal probe comes closer to the mayor himself than initially known. The investigation burst into public view when Adams abruptly canceled a trip to Washington D.C. (despite already being there) when federal authorities raided the home of his campaign fundraiser Brianna Suggs. It was later reported they were looking into whether his 2021 campaign conspired with the Turkish government to funnel illegal donations to the campaign. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Adams’ own electronic devices had been seized several days after the raid at Suggs’ home. It was then reported that investigators were looking into whether Adams cleared red tape for a Turkish consulate opening in Manhattan in 2021 – after he won the Democratic primary for mayor but while he was still serving as Brooklyn borough president.
Reporting for CNN, former NYPD counterterrorism head John Miller wrote that the probe is looking into Adams’ campaign money and possible foreign influence, according to people briefed on the investigation.
Adams and his campaign attorney, as well as Zornberg, have reiterated that Adams has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and that they are fully cooperating with federal authorities. “There has been no indication that I've seen that the mayor is a target,” Zornberg said in response to a question on Tuesday.
“After learning of the federal investigation, it was discovered that an individual had recently acted improperly,” Adams’ campaign attorney Boyd Johnson said in a statement on Friday, after it was reported that Adams’ devices were seized. “In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, this behavior was immediately and proactively reported to investigators.” Adams declined to elaborate on that on Tuesday.
Adams declined to say whether he thought the probe was the result of some kind of targeting or retribution – including over the administration’s critical statements of the federal government for its handling of the migrant crisis.
Adams did confirm, however, that he reached out to then-Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro about the Turkish consulate in 2021. He characterized it as a typical duty of an elected official reaching out to address problems that “constituencies” are facing. Adams said he did not contact anyone else at the department at the time or attempt to circumvent Nigro.
Adams also said that he’s heard from donors that they stand with and support him. He added that he will pay for legal fees with a combination of his own money and campaign money – to the extent that a compliance attorney determines the latter is allowable. He reiterated that he has always emphasized the importance of following the law. “We don’t do the straw donors. We don’t do quid pro quo. We follow the law,” Adams said.
Adams did also offer a response when asked whether he would resign if he is ultimately indicted. “You are all the way down the field,” Adams told the reporter who asked the question. “I’m going to continue to do the job as the mayor as long as (it’s) my responsibility to do the job.”