“Any inquiry that is done, we are going to fully participate and make sure that it’s done correctly. I have not been contacted by anyone from any law enforcement agency. And that’s why I came back from D.C. to be here, to be on the ground and look at this inquiry as it was made.”
The latest development could put Adams in a tight spot politically.
No clear challenger to Adams has emerged yet, and the moderate Democrat remains popular with his base of largely middle-class Black and Latino voters. But Thursday’s raid, which comes on the heels of several other probes targeting figures in the Adams orbit, had some on the left smelling blood in the water.
“Drip, drip, drip, drop,” said Daniel Altschuler, a prominent progressive organizer and co-executive director of immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, referring to the multiple accusations of corruption touching upon Adams’ campaign and his inner circle.
Relatively little is still known about the investigation. Suggs couldn’t be reached for comment, and her spokesperson Jordan Barowitz declined to comment late Thursday afternoon.
KSK Construction, the construction company tied up in the probe, declined to comment, as did the U.S. attorney offices in both the Eastern and Southern districts — though the FBI confirmed to POLITICO that agents executed a law enforcement action at Suggs’ address.
The raid adds to a growing snowball of law enforcement actions targeting figures in and around the administration.
In July, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accused six contributors to Adams’ campaign of running a straw donor scheme, and two of them have pleaded guilty. Two months later, Bragg charged Adams’ buildings commissioner with taking bribes in exchange for favors and access to the administration (the commissioner, Eric Ulrich, stepped down after the allegations were made public and has denied wrongdoing).
While the allegations hit close to his administration and campaign, none of them have implicated Adams himself. And the probes from the Manhattan district attorney have not seemed to cause any mortal harm to the mayor’s political standing.
Then Thursday’s bombshell from the FBI dropped.
Political operatives who just Wednesday were speculating about whether Adams would even face a formidable challenge for a second term in 2025 were suddenly entertaining the idea of a serious race — and wondering whether the probe would expand.
One person in the labor movement who was granted anonymity to discuss a private conversation told POLITICO that Queens state Sen. Jessica Ramos, whose name has been floated as a potential 2025 candidate, was calling around to potential supporters Thursday.
Ramos has been an ardent critic of the mayor and her spokesperson Astrid Aune did not deny she was reaching out. She suggested the political problem was affecting Adams’ ability to govern.
“I think it’s very concerning, particularly regarding the ability to secure federal funds for the crisis we’re facing,” Aune said, referring to the city’s housing needs and serving a surge of migrants. “We really need to focus on managing this crisis, and this is a huge distraction.”
City Hall didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Adam’s political standing.
Other potential candidates were getting courted, like Brooklyn state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who “is getting a lot of incoming” from prospective donors, a person familiar with his political operation told POLITICO.
Curtis Sliwa, the Republican anti-crime crusader who lost to Adams in 2021, has already said he planned to challenge Adams again. Does this change his plans for 2025? “He may be in the big house by then,” Sliwa told POLITICO. “Not the White House like he hoped for.”
Not everyone was as convinced of Adams’ downfall. The previous mayor, Bill de Blasio, faced a federal campaign finance investigation, but prosecutors never brought charges, and he was reelected without facing serious opposition. Adams’ poll numbers have been relatively strong with his base.
It’s still early in the investigation, and the public doesn’t know everything yet, one political insider who donated to Adams’ campaign cautioned: “But I’ve seen mayors overcome investigations and innuendos and unsavory characters.”
If there was any question as to the seriousness of the allegations and their potential impact, Adams seemed to answer them Thursday with his abrupt change in travel plans.
The mayor was supposed to be lobbying the White House and Congress members alongside the mayors of Chicago and Denver for help with the migrant crisis — the most pressing problem facing the city. Instead, Adams was nowhere to be found, even after touting on social media a video of him on a plane to Washington in the early morning.
The decision to fly home left congressional members miffed and the Biden administration uncertain how to explain away his absence.
“You saw the reports. Obviously, I can’t speak to his schedule and why he couldn’t attend,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about Adams’ whereabouts.
A person familiar with the mayor’s inner circle who was granted anonymity to discuss his actions was shocked by the mayor’s move to leave Washington: “It makes it look way, way, way worse. It, at best, makes him look dumb. And at worst, makes him look guilty and paranoid.”
Fabien Levy, the deputy mayor for communications, responded: “The mayor heard of an issue related to the campaign and takes these issues seriously, so he wanted to get back to New York as quickly as possible.”
Levy added, “He plans to return to D.C. and reschedule these meetings as soon as he can.”
Joe Anuta and Jason Beeferman contributed to this report.