Former Michelle Obama Aide Pushed Illinois Prosecutor to Give Smollett Investigation to FBI

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 23: Cook County State's attorney Kim Foxx arrives to speak with reporters and details the charges against R. Kelly's first court appearance at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on February 23, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Cook County, Illinois’s top prosecutor lobbied the Chicago Police Department to give their investigation of a hate hoax Empire actor Jussie Smollett allegedly staged against himself to the FBI following pressure by an ex-aide to former first lady Michelle Obama, according to a report.

USA Today, citing text messages and emails from Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx’s office, reports Tina Tchen, who served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff from 2011 to 2017, told the prosecutor that Smollett’s family harbored “concerns” regarding the police’s handling of the probe. According to the newspaper, Fox told the former Michelle Obama aide that she “convinced” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to request the FBI “take over” the investigation.

In a text message to a Smollett family member, Foxx confirmed that she had made the request. “Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask,” wrote Foxx. “Trying to figure out logistics. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Omg this would be a huge victory,” the relative replied.

Foxx wrote back: “I make no guarantees, but I’m trying.”

Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged that while Foxx spoke with Johnson about the FBI assuming control of the probe, the bureau has not done so.

USA Today’s report comes as Smollett is expected to appear in court on Thursday for his arraignment. Last week, the actor was charged with 16 felony counts accusing him of lying to the police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two masked men in downtown Chicago.

Police charge that Smollett, who is black and gay, staged the January 29 attack due to frustrations with his salary of $100,000 per episode. Amid his legal woes, executive producers of the hit Fox show cut Smollett from the season’s final episodes. The actor’s lawyers claim the charges are “prosecutorial overkill” and maintain he committed no wrongdoing. Appearing on CNN last Friday, Smollett’s defense attorney Mark Geragos said the actor is a victim of a “media gangbang.”

Smollett also faces possible legal trouble in connection to allegedly sending himself a threatening and racist letter to himself days prior to the allegedly staged attack against himself. The FBI is reportedly investigating the letter, but has yet to comment publicly on the matter.

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