Joe Biden once embraced Eric Adams. Don’t expect that anytime soon.

New York mayor’s scandal puts even more distance between Adams and President Biden.

Nov 23, 2023 - 09:29
Joe Biden once embraced Eric Adams. Don’t expect that anytime soon.

NEW YORK — Joe Biden and Eric Adams, once a perfect political match, haven’t spoken in nearly a year — and nobody expects that to change anytime soon.

The icy relationship — emerging amid Adams’ criticism of the president's handling of the migrant crisis — has evolved into a deep freeze with the New York mayor now embroiled in a federal investigation over whether his campaign colluded with foreign interests.

An FBI raid on his chief fundraiser’s home earlier this month led Adams to abruptly cancel high-level Washington meetings on migrant funding and jet back to New York.

Earlier ethical yellow flags in the mayor’s career — an alleged bid-rigging scandal and a self-promotional nonprofit — weren’t enough to stop Biden from embracing the Black, politically moderate former cop who fit well with the president’s own political persona. But now, Biden’s advisers are glad the growing gulf exists and argue that it should insulate the Democratic president from any political fallout.

Two White House officials not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations said there had long been rumors in New York about Adams and his inner circle, but they are not aware of any heads-up to Biden about the mayor’s latest string of legal troubles.

Adams’ recent comments underscore the sour mood.

“I kid myself by calling myself the Biden of Brooklyn,' he told reporters.

He remains unapologetic about his call for the president to do more to alleviate the migrant crisis as the city stares down a fiscal cliff.

“D.C. has abandoned us, and they need to be paying their cost to this national problem,” the mayor said. “Don’t yell at me, yell at D.C.”

The silence between Biden and Adams has left the two top Democrats increasingly reliant on intermediaries to discuss federal funding to support the surge of migrants overwhelming big cities.

The president hasn’t discussed Adams publicly or privately as of late, the two White House officials said.

Several Democratic leaders say those in Biden’s orbit must have known about Adams’ past probes.

“They read the same press stories everybody else reads,” said a national Democratic operative who was granted anonymity to discuss the relationship. “Fair or not fair, they’re out there. This is not a secret kept in New York.”

One longtime Democratic aide, who was also granted anonymity to discuss the circumstances, said of the federal investigation, “I’m surprised it took this long.”

The New York mayor has neither been charged nor accused of wrongdoing.

The FBI stopped him and seized his electronic devices on Nov. 6, four days after agents removed campaign documents from his fundraiser’s home. Adams’ attorney says he is fully cooperating with the probe and even outed an individual on his campaign accused of unspecified wrongdoing.

The feds are looking into whether the Adams campaign conspired with the Turkish government to accept illegal foreign contributions in exchange for favors for Turkish officials, according to The New York Times.

It’s not the first time Adams has been under investigation.

The state inspector general examined alleged favoritism that Adams showed for a gaming operator making a bid for a contract at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The operator had donated to him.

Then, both the federal government and the New York City Department of Investigation looked at the fundraising he did as Brooklyn borough president for his One Brooklyn nonprofit, which operated in a gray area for charity and to boost his profile, according to the New York Post.

Adams was charged in neither and went on to decisively win the race for mayor in 2021, but his political career has additionally been dogged by questions raised in POLITICO stories about his secret office and where he makes his home.

And currently, the federal examination of whether his campaign for mayor used so-called straw donors to leverage public matching funds comes in addition to the Manhattan district attorney indicting six Adams supporters for allegedly bundling illegal donations and charging his former buildings commissioner with alleged bribery.

The mayor’s supporters argue that Black and Latino elected officials face greater scrutiny than white ones.

Other defenders, especially Republicans, say without any evidence that Biden’s Department of Justice is targeting Adams because he has been critical of the president.

Another person with the White House granted anonymity said officials there received a last-minute cancellation of meetings without an explanation on Nov. 2, the day Adams left Washington, D.C., almost as soon as he’d arrived.

The mayor has sought to quash any notion that Biden aides directed him to return to New York because of the federal investigation.

“The White House didn’t do that,” Adams told reporters earlier this month. “That is just not true. And keep in mind, I did not call for the meeting in D.C. Another coalition partner called for it, the mayor of Denver.”

Though Adams has said he would reschedule the meetings he missed, including with White House chief of staff Jeff Zients and Biden senior adviser Tom Perez, the mayor’s spokesperson would not confirm whether he had yet done so, saying such information is released only with his daily public schedule.

The president and mayor last spoke — doing so only briefly — in January at an event in New York City. Adams was dropped in May from the president’s National Advisory Board. And the two didn’t meet when Biden was in town in September for the United Nations General Assembly.

It’s a long fall from February 2022, when Biden visited New York City and commended Adams at an event on gun violence strategies.

“Mayor Adams, you and I agree: The answer is not to abandon our streets,” Biden said then at NYPD headquarters.

Even earlier than that, Biden appeared to spot promise in Adams. In July 2021, the president hosted the then-Brooklyn borough president at a White House summit on combating gun violence.

“The prerequisite to prosperity for New York and America is public safety and reform and justice,” Adams says in a Facebook video posted by the White House, adding of Biden: “And he gets it.”

The president and mayor now leave it entirely up to their top aides to make progress on their behalf.

“We are all one big family,” Adams’ chief of staff, Camille Joseph Varlack, told reporters recently. “There are times when we’re not going to be aligned but the fact of the matter is the work continues to move on.”

Nick Reisman contributed to this report.