Chicago, IL – Members of the former Obama political family are at odds over interference in the Jussie Smollett case, and the police union is asking federal authorities to investigate.
Chicago attorney Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama, tried to intervene on Smollett’s behalf early in the investigation, FOX News reported.
“I wanted to give you a call on behalf of Jussie Smollett and family who I know. They have concerns about the investigation,” Tchen texted to Foxx on Feb. 1.
Text message records showed that Tchen had given Foxx’s phone number to a family member of Smollett, and that person also texted the state’s attorney, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Foxx said the family had no concern about the quality of the investigation by the Chicago police, but felt there would be fewer leaks if the investigation was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The state’s attorney agreed to ask Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to refer the investigation to the FBI and texted both Tchen and the family member back to confirm that she had, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“Spoke to the superintendent earlier. He is going to make the ask. Trying to figure out logistics. I’ll keep you posted,” Foxx texted the relative that evening.
“OMG this would be a huge victory,” the relative replied.
“Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson,” Foxx texted Tchen the same day. “I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation. He is reaching out now and will get to me shortly.”
Chicago Police Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the FBI had been involved in the investigation of an alleged hate crime against Smollett from the beginning, but that Superintendent Johnson had never even considered handing over the case to the feds, FOX News reported.
Smollett told police on Jan. 29 that he had been attacked by two white supporters of President Donald Trump on his way home from a Subway restaurant.
He claimed the men called him homophobic and anti-black slurs and told him “This is MAGA country” as they beat him up and put a noose around his neck. He also said they threw a chemical on him.
However, investigators quickly figured out that something was amiss, and then identified Smollett’s attackers.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained at a press conference the day of Smollett’s arrest that that police considered the actor a victim up until Ola and Abel Osundairo returned from Nigeria to Chicago and were taken into police custody, and then the investigation “spun in a totally different direction.”
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt up until that 47th hour. But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” he explained.
Smollett was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct on Feb. 20 for making a false police report.
The next day, Smollett turned himself in to Chicago police and Foxx announced she would be recusing herself from the case because she had been helping the family communicate with the police department.
“Shortly after the incident occurred in late January, State’s Attorney Foxx had conversations with a family member of Jussie Smollett about the incident and their concerns, and facilitated a connection to the Chicago Police Department who were investigating the incident,” Robert Foley, a senior adviser to Foxx, said in an emailed statement at the time.
“Based on those prior conversations and out of an abundance of caution, last week State’s Attorney Foxx decided to remove herself from the decision making in this matter and delegated it to her First Assistant Joseph Magats, a 28-year veteran prosecutor,” Foley said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Foxx did not initially reveal it was Obama-staffer Tchen with whom she had been in contact.
A grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts related to the same crime on March 8 and the prosecutor brought those charges against the actor.
After the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced it was dropping the charges against Jussie on March 26, Magats told reporters that Foxx had nothing to do with his decision.
He said Smollett was not innocent, but that he wasn’t a dangerous criminal that needed to be charged aggressively.
While the prosecutor’s decision may have been a win for the former First Lady’s chief of staff, President Barak Obama’s former chief of staff – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel - was furious.
"This is actually making a fool of all of us," Emanuel told ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday. “Especially [in] a city that embraced not only him as an actor but more importantly the values of being whoever you are, whoever you love, whatever your background is, you have a home here. He took that, turned it around and tried to self-promote himself.”
He had repeatedly called dismissing the charges against Smollett a “whitewash of justice.”
Police released 61 pages of investigatory documents from the Smollett case on Wednesday morning before they received a judge-imposed gag order that barred them from sharing anything more or even talking about the case, ABC News reported.
The Chicago police union called for an investigation into Foxx’s interference in the Smollett case on March 19, and again after the charges against the actor were dropped.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said he had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the state’s attorney and also a hoax threat letter purportedly received by Smollett a week before he staged his attack, CNN reported.
"We're doubling down on that. We want to make sure that the Justice Department takes a very hard look with that case and what went on today," Graham said.