FBI focus on NYC Mayor Adams’ Turkey travels in campaign finance probe, but questions about details remain
New York Daily News November 28, 2023
NEW YORK (Tribune News Service) — One of the threads federal investigators are tugging at in their probe of Mayor Eric Adams’ 2021 campaign and its connections to Turkey is his travel to that Middle Eastern country over the years, sources confirmed to the New York Daily News.
Adams has said he traveled to Turkey up to seven times, but he’s offered little detail about what what he did there — nor is it clear exactly what the feds are looking for in this aspect of their probe.
While details of four of Adams’ Turkey trips have been reported in the media to date, a fifth planned trip whose details have not been previously reported involves Adams promoting so-called “smart canes” for blind people, according to a September 2018 video Adams appears in that was reviewed by the Daily News.
Adams first trip to Turkey, he revealed last week, was during his tenure as a state senator.
“I actually traveled to Turkey for the first time as a state senator when I went over to Azerbaijan and to Baku with a Senate delegation,” he said. “We just picked up one day and said, ‘Hey, let’s go to Turkey.’”
Whether he engaged in any official business on that first trip — and who paid his freight — is unclear. The mayor has said he’s footed the bill for all his personal travel over the years, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with the current federal probe.
Traveling to Turkey on that trip with a “Senate delegation,” as Adams said last week, suggests he was in Azerbaijan or Turkey on official business, but there is no record showing he reported the trip on financial disclosure forms from his time as a state senator.
Another statement Adams made reveals there was a recreational element to a trip to Baku in 2012, according to a 2014 report by Azer News, an Azerbaijan-focused outlet. According to that outlet, Adams was there to watch a “Eurovision song contest.”
On Tuesday, Adams was asked to clarify the situation. He described the trip to Turkey that he revealed last week as “personal” in nature. He then said “we will look at our Senate records” and alluded to a trip he took while in the Senate with Assembly members Steven Cymbrowitz and Alec Brook-Krasny — a trip that Adams said was government funded.
“I’ll look at the record,” the mayor said, adding that if the trip wasn’t reported, it was an “oversight.”
“We’ll find out how we can modify it if that was the case,” he said.
In addition to that trip, Adams’ financial disclosure forms show he traveled to Turkey twice in 2015 during his tenure as Brooklyn borough president.
He’s also publicly stated he traveled there in 2017 with his son Jordan Coleman — a 21-day vacation he described last Tuesday as “one of the most joyful times of my life.”
There is no public record of Adams traveling to Turkey during his nearly two years as mayor. A spokesman for the mayor referred questions about this travel abroad to the office of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. The Daily News has submitted several public records requests to Brooklyn Borough Hall.
In addition to his foreign travel, the federal investigation has also focused on donations Adams’ 2021 campaign received that potentially have ties to the Turkish government. Some of the political contributions that have sparked the feds’ interest include money the campaign received from employees at KSK Construction, a company led by Turkish immigrant Erden Arkan.
Investigators are also probing messages Adams sent to former FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro on behalf of Reyhan Özgür, Turkey’s consul general in New York. In 2021, Özgür sought Adams’ help to resolve fire safety issues around the then-under-construction Turkish Consulate in advance of a ribbon cutting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended.
Then there are the trips to Turkey.
When asked last week to provide information about all of his Turkey travel, the mayor at first agreed to do so, but then said “maybe” he would.
Of the trips that have been reported publicly so far, the Turkish consulate, Turkish Airlines and Bahgesehir University in Turkey helped fund at least one from August 2015 — details first reported by the news outlet The City.
According to correspondence between the city Conflicts of Interest Board and the borough president’s office at the time, Adams planned to go on that trip with his then-special counsel, Ama Dwimoh; Adams aide Rana Abbasova, who acted as Adams’ translator in a volunteer capacity at the time; and Adams’ confidante and current senior adviser Tim Pearson.
Adams’ fifth planned trip to Turkey in Nov. 2018 was connected to his involvement with the Young Guru Academy and the “smart canes” that group developed, but little else is known about the trip.
In a video the group posted on Facebook in September 2018, Adams, who was then serving as Brooklyn borough president, said he planned to travel to Turkey in Nov. 2018 and praised the group for its work with the blind.
But it isn’t clear if Adams ever went on that trip, and his press team declined to answer questions about it and other aspects of Adams’ travel to Turkey.
Around the same time Adams said he’d meet up with Young Guru Academy, in Jan. 2019, Fox 5 NY reported that Adams’ office “purchased a number of the $395 WeWalk canes through a grant and will be testing them out through partner organizations Helen Keller Services for the Blind and the Lighthouse Guild, as well as with the MTA, which will test its functions in their various transit systems.”
It’s unclear where that grant originated or how much it was worth. The borough president’s office has not provided any information around it.
The MTA’s involvement in the program also remains unclear. At the time, one website reported that the MTA was “interested” in the canes.
But when contacted by the Daily News about it recently, that agency claimed to have no knowledge it was a so-called “partner” with Adams’ office on the canes.
“Generally, the MTA does not seek solutions that require hardware per customer,” MTA spokeswoman Kayla Shults told the Daily News. “Projects are intended to help anyone and everyone, and we neither funded nor formally tested ‘smart canes.’”
With Chris Sommerfeldt.
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