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Defiant Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao denies any wrongdoing in 1st comments following FBI raid; "I have done nothing wrong"

Team Coverage: Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao denies wrongdoing after FBI raid, blasts recall campaign
Team Coverage: Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao denies wrongdoing after FBI raid, blasts recall campaign 09:54

A defiant Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao gave her first public comments on Monday following the FBI raid on her home last week, saying she has nothing to hide and that she is not the subject of a federal investigation.

"I want to be crystal clear. I have done nothing wrong," said Thao. "I can tell you with confidence that this investigation is not about me."

Thao blasted the raid her home early Thursday morning which she said came without warning and said the effort to have her recalled from office is a waste of time and city resources.

"I want to know what probable cause the FBI has. What evidence have they collected that justifies raiding the home of a sitting mayor without notice and without the courtesy of a conversation," said Thao. "I want to know more about the handful of billionaires from San Francisco and Piedmont who are hell-bent on running me out of office. I want to know why the day following the qualification of a recall election, funded by some of the richest people in the Bay Area, seemed like the right day to execute a warrant."

Watch: Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao denies wrongdoing following FBI raid 09:52

Federal authorities have not released any details about the probe or said who is the subject of the investigation.

Thao fought back tears while saying she would not be stepping down from office.

"I'm seeking the truth right now just as much as you all are. I will not be bullied and I will not be disparaged and I will not be threatened out of this office," Thao said. "There are a lot of radical right-wing forces who know they will never win an election in Oakland fair and square. They know their extreme views are at odds with our Oakland values."

Before the press conference, Thao's chief of staff Leigh Hanson said Thao would not be taking any questions on advice of her attorney. Thao began her remarks by referencing the mass shooting at a recent Juneteenth gathering near Lake Merritt that injured more than a dozen people last week.

"My heart goes out to all of those who are battling injuries, their families, and our whole city," she said.

Immediately after Mayor Thao's press conference ended, Oakland United to Recall Sheng Thao (OUST) held its own press conference outside city hall.

Recall organizers took exception to Mayor Thao's remarks that "billionaires from San Francisco and Piedmont" were "hell bent on running me out of office."

"All of our money comes from inside of Oakland for the most part. We're going to report it and you're going to see it June 30th," Seneca Scott, a recall organizer, said. "We knew exactly what she would do: take no questions from the public after disappearing for several days, blame everyone, (and) scapegoat over 41,000 neighbors who signed her petition."

Brenda Harbin-Forte, a former Alameda County judge who is also part of the recall efforts, called Mayor Thao's claims "a red herring."

"Don't start trying to deflect, defer, and project (to try) to have people asking about other things. Talk about the merits of the recall," she said. "We don't need victims. We need someone who's going to step up to the plate, accept responsibility for what is going on, and accept responsibility for her part of what has happened. And then, have a plan to address it. Don't just blow it off."

On June 20, about a dozen FBI agents served warrants at Thao's house on Maiden Lane in the city's Lincoln Highlands neighborhood and hours later emerged from the home carrying boxes. 

Federal agents also served warrants at two other homes owned by the politically influential Duong family and at offices shared by the Vietnamese American Business Association (VABA) and California Waste Solutions which manages the city's curbside recycling program. 

Both VABA and California Waste Solutions list multiple members of the Duong family on their leadership teams.   

The closest the mayor might have come to suggesting the raid was politically motivated, was when she described other elected officials, not by name, who she says have been actually accused of wrongdoing, without the same treatment.

"Their innocence is presumed until proven guilty. They will never face this indignity. This I know for sure because I was born poor in America. And that teaches you a lot about the world from day one," the mayor said.

Thao went on to say, " And I am your mayor. I am the mayor to all the Oaklanders who work hard overtime to do the right thing to make the world a better place. And no matter how hard you strive and push and fight, and stay positive, and you don't give up because you believe in yourself. And you know what you have to offer this world. But you just cannot catch a break. Guess what? I'm not going down like that. We're not going down like that."

Security Analyst Jeff Harp spent years in the FBI. He says the agency does take political implications seriously, and often does offer to cooperate, though not always with a search warrant.

"No. The FBI, that makes zero sense. Because if you're gonna serve a warrant, you don't give somebody the heads up that you're coming," Harp told CBS News Bay Area.

The Oakland NAACP called on Thao to resign following the raids, saying she "cannot focus on the needs of the residents of Oakland while she addresses the major challenges posed by the FBI raid and investigation."

Thao's former chief of staff Renia Webb also called for the mayor to resign, accusing Thao of being involved in pay-to-play scheme; accusations she has leveled as far back as February 2023. 

Thao's attorney Tony Brass on Friday that it was not clear that she is even the subject of the investigation, and said Thao is "ready, willing and able to cooperate with authorities." However, Brass withdrew from representing Thao Monday afternoon following the mayor's public statement.

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