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Eric Adams

‘He’s Open to Any Ideas We Have’: Mayor Adams Crushed Columbia’s Protests After Attending a Secret Meeting With Billionaires

Chat logs leaked to the Washington Post raise a host of questions about how the raids on student protesters came about

Police swarm the Columbia campus April 30. (Anna Oakes / Hell Gate)

Who should have a voice in deciding whether the full might of the NYPD, complete with flash-bang grenades, the discharge of at least one gun, and armored BearCat siege vehicles should be brought to bear against a group of students that are nonviolently protesting their country and university's complicity in a war campaign that has claimed the lives of an estimated 35,000 people, two thirds of them women and children?

Until now, the Adams administration has insisted that, in the case of the April 30 NYPD raid on protesters at Columbia University, the decision was made by City officials at the invitation of the university's leadership (an invitation that the administration was heavily lobbying the university to extend).

But on Thursday, we learned that there were other voices weighing in on the decision, namely, a loose coalition of millionaires, billionaires, and other titans of commerce and industry who felt that the student activism taking place at Columbia was not doing anything good for the interests of the far-right Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and that they should persuade Adams to order the police to crush it. 

For reasons that may or may not be connected to their fabulous wealth and some well-timed campaign donations, they got a meeting with Mayor Eric Adams on April 26, a few days before the NYPD raid on Hamilton Hall, during which they urged him to send in the goon squad and propose an arrangement in which they, the millionaires and billionaires, would hire their own private investigators to sic on the students and then pass that information along to the NYPD.

All of this is revealed in a remarkable report in the Washington Post which you should read in its entirety, and which is based on the leaked WhatsApp chat where these tycoons plotted their efforts to get the mayor to turn the City's police force once more against the student protesters.

According to the Post,

Business executives including Kind snack company founder Daniel Lubetzky, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, billionaire Len Blavatnik and real estate investor Joseph Sitt held a Zoom video call on April 26 with Mayor Eric Adams (D), about a week after the mayor first sent New York police to Columbia’s campus, a log of chat messages shows. During the call, some attendees discussed making political donations to Adams, as well as how the chat group’s members could pressure Columbia’s president and trustees to permit the mayor to send police to the campus to handle protesters, according to chat messages summarizing the conversation.

One member of the WhatsApp chat group told The Post he donated $2,100, the maximum legal limit, to Adams that month. Some members also offered to pay for private investigators to assist New York police in handling the protests, the chat log shows — an offer a member of the group reported in the chat that Adams accepted.

The business magnates trying to influence the mayor's deployment of the police were a subset of a larger WhatsApp group that has been trying to bolster American public support for Israel's war since last autumn. Members had private briefings from Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet; former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; and Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, the Post reported.

The Post also reported that members of this WhatsApp group were particularly concerned about how our mayor was responding to the student encampment at Columbia: 

In the chat, discussion of how Adams was handling the Columbia protests — and how group members could help — took off the following day, after student protesters built a new encampment to replace the demolished one.

Lubetzky, of the snack company Kind, posted in the chat sharing a link to an Instagram video showing an Israeli Arab journalist getting hit by a man the video caption claims is an “anti-Israel protester.” Not long after, billionaire Blavatnik posted a picture of Adams and wrote, “He needs help.”

Sitt responded that he had already “been helping but can use more support.” He asked if others were “open to giving” to Adams.

Gabay, the Cypriot Israeli real estate billionaire, replied: “Pls send the info. Thanks.” Then Blavatnik posted an ActBlue link allowing donations to the Eric Adams 2025 committee.

Lubetzky messaged: “If there is a group to contribute through, or a way to ensure our contributions are known to be related to his efforts to fight antisemitism and hate, pls let us know and I will support meaningfully alongside you guys.” Sitt replied that he was arranging a “code” for such donations; asked about this message, Vito Pitta, counsel to Adams’s 2025 campaign, said “there is no ‘special code’ for contributions.”

We don't know yet how many of these chat participants gave to the Adams campaign in this period, or how much, because the campaign finance reporting won't come out for months and most of the participants declined to tell the Post what they gave, though Blavatnik confirmed to the Post that he did indeed donate $2,100 to Adams to "endorse Mayor Adams’ stalwart support of Israel and firm stand against antisemitism.”.

Meanwhile, the chat participants were working on another front, recognizing that, not unlike a vampire, the NYPD could only enter the Columbia campus if they were invited in. "In touch with the board," former Congressmember Ted Deutch, now head of the American Jewish Committee, reportedly wrote to the chat group. "So NYPD can return."

And then, on April 26, four days before hundreds of helmeted police officers swarmed onto campus in a raid that injured students, members of the chat got a 45-minute Zoom meeting with the mayor to press their case, the Post reports. The full list of participants is unknown, but according to the Post it included at least Blavatnik, Sitt, Loeb and Lubetzky.

"He’s open to any ideas we have," Sitt wrote of Adams, a day after the call. "As you saw he’s ok if we hire private investigators to then have his police force intel team work with them."

Later the same afternoon, Adams went on Republican billionaire John Catsamatidis's radio show, saying that he was urging college administrations to take a hard line on protests "Soon as one tent comes up, take that tent down," he said. "Don’t allow it to spread, because what you will find is that it will continue to multiply and spread and bring a level of disorder."

All of this raises a whole bunch of questions: What exactly was discussed at the Zoom meeting? What, if anything was promised by the mayor, and what, if anything, was promised by the billionaires who'd been discussing amongst themselves how to leverage campaign donations to him? Who else has the mayor met with to discuss when and where to deploy police to suppress nonviolent protest? Given that both Adams and the billionaires were pressuring Columbia leadership to invite the NYPD on campus, were those efforts coordinated? Is it possible for people with opinions on these questions who aren't billionaires residing in London to get a 45-minute meeting with the mayor, and if not, what does that say about his posturing as a mayor of blue-collar New Yorkers? Is the NYPD currently cooperating with the billionaires' private investigators to bring pain to people protesting the war on Gaza, and if so, what does that collaboration look like and is it legal? (In response to the Post's reporting, City Hall issued the somewhat narrowly tailored denial that the NYPD is "not using and has not used private investigators to help manage protests.") How will this entire episode, in which campaign donations and advocacy for the interests of a foreign government swirl together in uncomfortable proximity, play out in the context of the pending federal investigation into Adams's foreign-government-linked campaign donations?

The Post posed at least some of these questions to City Hall, and got accused of antisemitism by Deputy Mayor for Communications Fabien Levy for their trouble. "The insinuation that Jewish donors secretly plotted to influence government operations is an all too familiar antisemitic trope that the Washington Post should be ashamed to ask about, let alone normalize in print," Levy told the Post, commenting on a story based on chat logs in which donors secretly plotted to influence government operations.

Asked for comment, City Hall responded to Hell Gate with the identical response it sent to the Post, including the statement attributed to Levy and statements on background that "The NYPD is not using — and has not used — private investigators to assist in operations related to these protests." The mayor's opposition to campus occupations predates the January 26 meeting, the Mayor's office said, reiterating that Columbia invited the NYPD onto campus.

Hell Gate reached out Lubetzky, Loeb, Blavatnik, and Sitt for comment, and will update this story if they respond.

A few hours after the Post story dropped, Mayor Adams attended a black-tie gala for his brother Bernard's new charity, where he took the opportunity to attack protesters as unpatriotic.

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