1. Opinion

PolitiFact Florida: No evidence that Andrew Gillum is running from FBI

Florida Gubernatorial Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum gives a campaign speech in front of his supporters who gathered at the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades Local 1010 in Orlando on Aug. 31. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Oct. 14, 2018

A Republican ad portrays Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as a man on the run from law enforcement amid an FBI corruption investigation in his city.

"Andrew Gillum is running for governor and also from the FBI," the Republican Party of Florida ad says.

That's extremely misleading. But the ad goes on to level more specific charges.

"Andrew Gillum has ties to an active criminal investigation. Gillum took possible illegal trips with lobbyists to New York and Costa Rica. More controversy concerning Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Gillum approved millions in grants for those same lobbyists. An ongoing corruption probe. Now Gillum refuses to disclose who has paid him."

It appears unlikely that law enforcement will announce the results of its investigation before Gillum faces Republican Ron DeSantis in the race for governor. So some of the ad's claims are speculative.

Here, we will fact-check the ad's most inaccurate statement, that Gillum is running from, or somehow evading, the FBI.

The ad is wrong when it states that Gillum is running from the FBI. None of the news articles cited by the Republicans provide evidence that Gillum has run from the FBI. The only evidence publicly known is that Gillum has cooperated with an ongoing corruption investigation in Tallahassee.

The investigation started in 2015, when FBI agents posed as businessmen identifying themselves as Mike Sweets, Mike Miller and Brian Butler. They spent months schmoozing Tallahassee city officials and those around them. The undercover agents said they wanted to invest in properties if they could get public funding.

In June 2017, FBI agents delivered a subpoena to Tallahassee City Hall requesting thousands of pages of records from key players in city government. The records related to top local developers behind projects subsidized by the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. The FBI issued more subpoenas through May 2018, and the city has turned over about 200,000 records.

The Tallahassee Democrat broke the story about the FBI investigation on June 22, 2017. The next day, Gillum said he had already met with the FBI, and that the FBI told him he was not the focus of the investigation.

"Last week, the FBI approached me about several people and businesses here in Tallahassee," Gillum said in a statement. "I spoke with them and told them they could expect both the city and my personal cooperation with the investigation. They assured me I was not the focus of an investigation and that they would be moving quickly with their work."

Gillum met with the FBI without a lawyer present, he says. Barry Richard, Gillum's attorney for a related state ethics commission complaint, told PolitiFact that the FBI has not asked for any subsequent meeting with Gillum or any documents from him.

"There is no FBI probe of Gillum," Richard said. "The only connection is the FBI asked him some questions in his home and told him he wasn't the focus."

Steven R. Andrews, a Tallahassee attorney representing the city's former manager — who testified before the federal grand jury — told Politico he believes Gillum is in the clear. Prosecutors never asked his client about the mayor, Andrews said.

Law enforcement hasn't commented to the media about the investigation.

We don't know the full story behind the FBI investigation yet, because law enforcement has made no announcements about the case. But there is no evidence that Gillum has run from the FBI.

We rate this statement False.


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