There certainly is one. So how serious is it?
With the probe of New York City Mayor Eric Adams widening, news broke late Friday that the FBI has seized at least two mobile phones and an iPad from the Mayor. In other words: everything he’s likely been using to communicate.
At bottom we’ve put a detailed roadmap of the case (which we’ll also post over at opsdesk.org). But in the meantime…. What’s the takeaway so far?
First: A review of the current reported facts indicates serious irregularities appear to exist among the campaign contributions to Eric Adams’s campaign (see below). But what is to be expected when your “chief campaign fundraiser” is a 25-year-old who has no experience and has only ever worked for you?
Brianna Suggs, the fundraiser, whose home was raided by the FBI, is also the reported “goddaughter” of Adams’s “Chief City Hall Advisor,” Ingrid Lewis-Martin (which is likely how Suggs got the job). Significantly: This makes Lewis-Martin the nexus between Suggs and Adams.
Second: The relationship between Adams and government agents of Turkey is bizarre, at best — and appears to be at the heart of the case. The Mayor has been to Turkey “six or seven times,” by his own count, and put three prominent Turks on his mayoral transition team. It’s just… odd.
Third: The timing of the FBI search of Suggs’s home — on the exact date that Adams was in D.C, to press the White House on the southern border issue — cannot be an accident (listen to this week’s podcast for further discussion as to why — you’ll agree).
But suffice to say: A message was likely sent here from the Biden administration about Adams’s relentlessly shaming them on the migrant issue.
Message received, apparently. Adams hasn’t said a word on it since.
And interestingly: The next-in-line were Adams to resign the mayoralty is the Public Advocate, a ceremonial post occupied by Jumaane Williams. Williams has been pointedly in-line with the Biden administration’s border position — to the point of openly criticizing Adams on the issue.
So where could it go from here?
The Adams campaign could simply be hit with regulatory fines related to illegal “bundling.”
At a higher end: If the feds found evidence of an intent to corrupt the electoral process by Adams himself, the Mayor could be looking at a slew of federal fraud and corruption charges.
At the highest end: If the Mayor was found to have acted on behalf of the Turkish government, he could have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) — which carries a sentence of up to five years on each count.
(This is the same charge, by the way, that DOJ tried to use on General Flynn, and which Hunter Biden could face re: China and Ukraine).
I am not aware of another time the FBI executed search warrants on the mayor of New York. We are in uncharted waters. And the career of Eric Adams — who has made his own White House aspirations known — hangs in the balance.
The Mayor knows this — which is why he has hired as his defense attorney the former head of the same Public Corruption Unit that’s investigating him now (see below).
The Open Questions
Was the FBI up on a wiretap of Suggs when they hit her door? This would be to see who she called in response.
Suggs has reportedly been served with a subpoena for an open grand jury. Clearly, charges are being contemplated. Has Ingrid Martin-Lewis been served? Have her electronics been taken also?
Do they have a cooperating witness? Has anyone flipped?
Why is Adams’s lawyer not demanding to know why there is a clear leak pipeline between the FBI and The New York Times? The Times even claims to have the search warrant. Does this not concern anyone?
The Big Question: What — if anything — did the Turks (or any of the people we identify below) get from Adams? The reporting of Adams helping the Turks push through a building permit in 2021 isn’t much to hang the case on, in my opinion.
The Eric Adams Case: A Reference Sheet
NOVEMBER 1: Mayor Eric Adams announces that he will be leading a group of big-city mayors on a trip to Washington, D.C to meet with “the White House” for the purposes of attempting to secure our borders and devise “vetting” procedures. Also attending will be mayors from Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and Houston. “Mayors across the country, they’re joining me with this,” Adams stated.
NOVEMBER 2: Adams arrives in D.C. for the meeting. After being notified that the FBI is executing a search warrant at the home of Brianna Suggs, his chief campaign fundraiser, he immediately takes an unscheduled flight back to NYC.
The search warrant is executed at Suggs’s townhouse at 929 Lincoln Place, Brooklyn. A report states that “screaming” could be heard inside the location during the search.
The FBI reportedly removes paperwork, boxes, two laptops, and three mobile phones from Suggs’s home. Also removed is a manila folder labeled, “Eric Adams.” Significantly, Suggs was also reportedly handed a subpoena for an active grand jury.
A few hours before the search, according to this report, a member of NYPD Internal Affairs requested a “wellness check” on Suggs. The IAB officer reportedly requested the check to identify all those living at Suggs’s location.
(Note: This writer has never heard of such a thing. Before the warrant? Bizarre).
In response to the search warrant, Adams pledges “full cooperation” with any investigation.
NOVEMBER 8: Adams hires a personal attorney, Boyd Johnson of the firm WilmerHale. (see below).
During the week, the story about Suggs emerges in stages and various venues. Suggs, 25-years-old, has no qualifications for her role as Adams’s chief campaign fundraiser and, according to her Linkd-In page, has only ever held jobs related to Eric Adams.
It then begins to emerge that numerous potentially illegal straw donors gave money to the Adams 2021 mayoral campaign. As Adams’s chief fundraiser, it is likely these donations came through Suggs.
Here are the reported funding streams in question.
I. The Turks
A. THE TURKEN FOUNDATION : Incorporated by Bilal Erdogan, the son of Turkey’s President, Recep Erdogan, three members of the Turken Foundation gave Adams’s campaign donations between 2018 and 2021. The Turkish President’s daughter is on the board of the Foundation.
Note: It is illegal for a foreign government to contribute to any American election.
The Turken Foundation registered last year as a foreign agent of the Turkish government. Its website states its goal is to, “provide cultural, social and educational opportunities and experiences for the Muslim students.”
As Brooklyn Borough President, Adams attend the 2018 groundbreaking of the Foundation’s flagship — a 21-story building in Manhattan worth tens of millions. At the event, he met President Erdogan.
Funding for the building was reportedly, at best, murky.
Why Adams, as Brooklyn Borough President, would attend a groundbreaking in Manhattan is unclear. Why Adams would help get the building permits it may not have qualified for is also unclear.
The total of the donations was, at this writing, reportedly small: $6,000.
B. THE TURKISH-AMERICAN STEERING COMMITTEE (TASC): A Turkish “advocacy group” linked to Erdogan’s political party, in 2018 two of its board members donated $12,600 to Adams’ campaign. The campaign ultimately had to return $8,000 due to contribution limits.
According to the Middle East Forum website, TASC has been investigated by the FBI during the past year for “alleged interference in U.S. politics on behalf of the Turkish government.”
According to the Global Influence website, TASC has been reporting to the Turkish government on the “advocacy activities of the Turkish American community.”
Both of TASC’s co-chairman registered with DOJ as agents of Turkey within the last two years.
C. KSK CONSTRUCTION: At least one employee of KSK, a “Turkish-American construction company,” reportedly donated $1,250 to the Adams’ campaign. The online magazine The City contacted the donor, who stated that he did not recall making the donation.
The City’s reporting indicates the total donations reported from KSK as roughly $14,000. Again, likely eligible for matching funds.
Other reporting shows that Erden Arkan, KSK’s owner, held a fundraiser in May 2021 that raised nearly $70,000 towards Adams’ mayoral campaign. Those contributions came from 84 donors, and led the campaign to seek almost $64,000 in public matching funds.
Whether KSK was involved in the construction of the new Turkish Consulate building that Adams apparently helped get occupied is an open question.
D. BAY ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY: Individuals linked to this small, Turkish-owned University in Washington, D.C, reportedly donated $10,000 to the Adams mayoral campaign, which the campaign returned. An affiliate location of this school was visited by Adams on one of his visits to Turkey.
New York City’s Campaign Finance Board requested that the campaign identify who had bundled the above questionable contributions together, but the campaign did not respond. Note that responding to requests from the CFB is mandatory.
Note also that Adams has, by his own statements, traveled to Turkey at least six or seven times. At least some of these trips were funded by Turkish entities.
II. The Mushtaq Brothers
Shahid and Yahya Mushtaq, two brothers who own a Queens construction company, pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor straw donor charge, agreeing to a $500 fine and community service.
The case was brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (read the indictment here).
Also indicted in the case: a close NYPD associate of Adams, former Deputy Inspector Dwayne Montgomery.
Once again, the Campaign Finance Board requested the name of who had bundled the funds from the Mushtaqs, but received no response from the Adams campaign.
Significantly: The light plea deal for the Mushtaqs is reportedly due to their agreement to cooperate as part of a “larger, ongoing investigation.”
Once again, the amounts are small. Looks like six donations, at least four of which were just $500. But again: they qualified for matching funds.
III. Eric Ulrich
Former City Council member and “senior advisor to Eric Adams,” Ulrich was awarded the post of Commissioner of the Department Buildings in the Adams administration. What Adams’s previous relationship was to Ulrich is unclear.
Ulrich resigned his Commissionership last month and pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts filed by the Manhattan DA’s Office relative to bribe-taking. Ulrich — who the DA’s Office reportedly captured on wiretaps — is alleged to have a gambling habit and mob ties.
Significantly, one of the acts Ulrich is being accused of is pushing through a Buildings Department inspection that was “elevated” to the Mayor’s “chief advisor” in order to fix a prior inspection failure at a mob-linked pizzeria.
That advisor appears to be Ingrid Lewis-Martin — Adams longest-serving and closest advisor, who is also Brianna Suggs’s “godmother.”
IV. The Asians
Additionally, some workers in the heavily Asian Flushing neighborhood stated that they never wrote checks attributed to them. At least one said his signature was forged, and that his deceased father was also used as an apparent straw donor.
As per The City, the funding streams appear to come from three entities:
The AC & Appliance company, owned by Hai Mo Zhong;
The New World Mall, an Asian shopping center in Flushing owned by a Tian Ji Li;
Jmart, an Asian-American grocery chain owned by Lian Wu Shao
Most of the donations are just under or at the $250 threshold which qualifies them for New York City’s 8-to-1 matching funds. Many of the checks appeared to have “similar handwriting.”
In total, the take from this funding stream appears to be roughly $40,000, from 127 different people. Adams appears to have made as much as $213,744 from this funding stream.
In all, the Adams campaign received $10.1 million in matching NYC funds – the largest amount ever received by a New York City candidate.
ERIC ADAMS: New York’s current mayor, Adams was previously a member of the NYPD, retiring in 2006 as a Captain. While a member of the NYPD, he was the founding member and leader of a fraternal group of African-American officers called, “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care,” who were often loudly critical of NYPD practices. While with the NYPD, Adams was criticized for his close relationship with the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan.
Adams began his political career with the New York State Senate in Albany, getting elected to four two-year terms before being elected Brooklyn Borough President. After two terms as Brooklyn Borough President, he was elected to Mayor in 2021, beginning his term in 2022.
Adams has had an unusually close relationship to the Turkish community in New York City going back to at least 2014, during his time as Brooklyn Borough President.
BRIANNA SUGGS: Suggs reportedly earned at least $150,000 from the Adams’ campaign since 2019. She also appears to be salaried at $100,000 per year from Al Cockfield’s PAC, “Striving for a Better New York.” Cockfield’s daughter, Amaris, is a spokesperson for the Mayor.
On her LinkedIn profile, where she listed her title as “Fundraiser and Director of Logistics,” she claimed to have raised $18.4 million for Adams’ 2021 campaign during the primary and general elections.
WILLIAM “BILLY” SUGGS: Brianna’s father, and a member of Adams’ transition team.
INGRID LEWIS-MARTIN: Called the “second-most powerful person in New York City government” by the New York Times, Lewis-Martin is Adams’s closest and longest-serving associate, being with him for over 40 years. She is currently the Mayor’s official “chief advisor.”
As per a profile in The New York Times, Lewis-Martin has been known to have “a trail of ethical issues,” including a point where she apparently doubled her salary while on the city payroll. She’s also known to have sharp elbows around City Hall. She describes Brianna Suggs as her “goddaughter.”
DAMIAN WILLIAMS: The current U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), which covers federal prosecutions in Manhattan, the Bronx, and six upstate counties. Williams was appointed to the position by President Biden in 2021. It is SDNY’s Public Corruption Unit that would be handling the case regarding Suggs and Adams.
BOYD JOHNSON: Reportedly retained by Adams as his lawyer, Johnson previously served as head of the Public Corruption Squad at the SDNY. Note that this is the same unit conducting the current federal investigation of Adams.
WILMERHALE: Prominent law firm boasting many previous members of SDNY, including Johnson and the former U.S. Attorney there, Preet Bharara.