Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 12, 2018

No evidence that Andrew Gillum is running from FBI

A Republican ad portrays Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as a man on the run from law enforcement amid an FBI corruption probe 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 their investigation before Gillum faces Republican Ron DeSantis in the race for governor. So some of the ad’s claims are speculative.

In a related story, we will explain all of the ad’s allegations in depth. Here, we will fact-check the ad’s most inaccurate statement, that Gillum is running from, or somehow evading, the FBI.

What we know about the FBI investigation

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.

Our ruling

A Republican Party of Florida ad said Gillum is running "from the FBI."

The claim tracks back to a corruption investigation involving Tallahassee, where Gillum is mayor. But there's no evidence to suggest that Gillum is running from the FBI. 

After news of the FBI investigation became public in June 2017, Gillum said he met with the FBI the previous week. Gillum met with the FBI at his home without a lawyer, he says. His lawyer in a related ethics matter said that the FBI has not asked for a subsequent meeting with Gillum.

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

We rate this statement False.

Our Sources

Republican Party of Florida, TV ad about Andrew Gillum and FBI, Oct. 10, 2018

Politico, "State documents: Gillum records tied to ‘active criminal investigation,’" Sept. 26, 2018

Politico, "Gillum releases records related to trips under ethics investigation, but questions remain," Sept. 4, 2018

Politico, "Gillum not listed as 'subject' in FBI affidavit, but political damage may already be done," Feb. 6, 2018

Sun Sentinel, "What do we know about the FBI cloud over Andrew Gillum's campaign?" Sept. 13, 2018

Tallahassee Democrat, "Andrew Gillum opens up about cutting ties with lobbyist friend Adam Corey and Mike Miller," Jan. 18, 2018

Tallahassee Democrat, "City hit with new FBI subpoena; Investigators focus in on Edison, Adam Corey, investment company," June 1, 2018

Tallahassee Democrat, "Andrew Gillum's receipts for New York and Costa Rica trips leave unanswered questions," Sept. 4, 2018

Tallahassee Democrat, "'Developer' zeroed in on CRA expansion; Suspected FBI agent lobbied local officials," Aug. 21, 2017

Tallahassee Democrat, "FBI demands CRA records from city of Tallahassee," June 22, 2017

Tallahassee Democrat, "FBI agent offers glimpse into big investigation; Discussion of unidentified probe is talk of the town," June 29, 2017

Tallahassee Democrat, "With Andrew Gillum in the media spotlight, FBI investigation gets national attention," Aug. 31, 2018

Tallahassee Democrat, "City Commission votes to move Cascades eatery forward," Dec. 5, 2013

Tallahassee Democrat, "Gillum's treasurer leads Cascades Park brewpub plan," Sept. 6, 2013

Tallahassee Democrat, "Gillum's trip irks ethics watchdogs," June 3, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "What we know — and don’t know — about the FBI investigation hanging over Andrew Gillum’s campaign," July 20, 2018

Tampa Bay Times editorial, "Times recommends: For Democrats, Gwen Graham for governor," Aug. 2, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "Why candidate Gillum ghosted his old friend," Sept. 28, 2018

Miami Herald, "Sloppy redaction shows large deposit into candidate's account. Reason: Pay the bills," Sept. 5, 2018

New York Times, "F.B.I. Graft Inquiry in Tallahassee Clouds Mayor's Bid for Governor," Sept. 2, 2018

Palm Beach Post, "DeSantis, GOP turn FBI probe into attack on Gillum; Democratic candidate has said he's not target of Tallahassee inquiry," Oct. 9, 2018

WXTL, "City commission votes 4-1 on Cascade Park restaurant," Dec. 4, 2013

Gillum campaign, Cease and desist letter, Oct. 11, 2018

City of Tallahassee, Meeting, Dec. 4, 2013

City of Tallahassee, Meeting, July 10, 2013

Andrew Gillum campaign, Press release and receipts for New York and Costa Rica trips, Sept. 4, 2018

Interview, Meredith Beatrice, Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman, Oct. 11, 2018

Interview, Carlie Waibel, Andrew Gillum campaign spokeswoman, Oct. 11, 2019

Interview, Barry Richard, Andrew Gillum’s attorney, Oct. 10, 2018

Interview, Amy Alexander, U.S. Attorney Office spokeswoman, Oct. 11, 2018

Interview, Jim Cooke, City of Tallahassee clerk, Oct. 11, 2018

Interview, Cassandra K. Jackson, city attorney for City of Tallahassee, Oct. 12, 2018

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No evidence that Andrew Gillum is running from FBI

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