NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams and a top administration official revealed Wednesday that he’s retained an outside law firm in the wake of the FBI’s raid of his chief campaign fundraiser’s home and that his administration is in contact with federal prosecutors handling the inquiry.
During a City Hall press briefing, Adams told reporters he’d hired WilmerHale, an international white-shoe law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., that employs more than 1,000 lawyers worldwide.
That revelation comes six days after FBI agents searched the Brooklyn home of Brianna Suggs, Adams’ top campaign fundraiser, as part of an investigation into whether the campaign conspired with the Turkish government and a Brooklyn construction firm to direct illegal foreign donations to Adams’ 2021 mayoral run.
“I sleep well at night,” he said. “I am clear that we follow the rules. We follow the rules. And I am angry if there are those [who] in any way attempt to do anything that would go against our process of how we collect campaign dollars or the procedures that are in our city.”
There have been no accusations of wrongdoing against Suggs, Adams or anyone working for Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign in connection with the federal probe.
Adams described WilmerHale as “professionals in this area,” without specifying what area he was referring to, and maintained that he’ll be “completely transparent” as the federal investigation moves forward.
WilmerHale is internationally acclaimed for its experience in representing clients in white-collar crime cases.
One of the most prominent attorneys at the firm is Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who famously probed former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. That investigation didn’t ultimately result in charges against de Blasio, but Bharara said in an extraordinary statement in March 2017 that some of the former mayor’s practices appeared to violate “the intent and spirit” of the law.
Adams’ Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg, another alum from the Southern District, said Wednesday that since last week, the administration has “been in touch” with prosecutors in the Southern District’s office, which is leading the probe that prompted the Suggs raid.
“Of course we are. The mayor has publicly pledged his cooperation,” she said. “We’ve been in touch.”
Zornberg declined to comment when asked whether anyone in the administration had received a letter from prosecutors alerting them that they’re a target of the federal probe.
Word of the raid on Suggs’ home reached Adams last Thursday while he was en route to a meeting convened at the White House to address the ongoing migrant crisis in New York City. That issue has dogged the mayor and has been his top priority for months. As part of his push to address it, he has repeatedly called on the federal government to do more to help the city.
With that opportunity in hand last Thursday, instead of attending, Adams opted to bow out of the White House meeting at the last minute so he could be “on the ground” in New York City to deal with fallout from the raid.
When asked to explain prioritizing the raid over his push to receive federal support on the migrant issue, Adams pushed back, saying he is not giving the probe priority, but that he was concerned for Suggs' well-being.
“I had a 25-year-old staffer that I saw grow up as an intern that had a traumatizing experience in her life,” he said. “There was a professional part of maintaining, you know, my staff and my city, but I think sometimes we miss the fact that there’s a human part to life. As a human being, I was concerned about a young 25-year-old staffer that went through a traumatic experience.”
Last Friday, during an interview with PIX11, Adams said he hadn’t spoken to Suggs since the raid, though. He revealed at the time that he hasn’t communicated with Suggs “since this incident took place” and added that Suggs has been in communication with the “team’s attorney.”
The mayor said on Wednesday that officials from the White House did not cancel the meeting with him in light of the FBI raid.
Adams, a veteran of the NYPD who retired as a captain, also said that while alarmed by the raid itself, he isn’t concerned about whether Suggs’ phone was wire-tapped by the feds. Zornberg echoed those sentiments, brushing off a question over whether Suggs was wiretapped.
Most of the questions Adams fielded from reporters Wednesday centered on the Suggs raid and the probe the raid is connected to.
In the course of answering them, the mayor, who has taken several trips to Turkey over the years, also revealed for the first time publicly that he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his time as Brooklyn borough president and that they “exchanged pleasantries.”
Adams also addressed a “wellness check” performed by the NYPD the night prior to the FBI raid of Suggs’ home — a development that had many speculating the administration somehow tried to warn her.
The mayor attempted to throw cold water on that theory Wednesday, saying his office had no knowledge of the check until after the fact.
“Let’s really close the door on this,” he said. “The mayor’s office had no role in that at all.”