Flashback: Former Michelle Obama Aide Pressured Prosecutor to Give Smollett Case to FBI

Tina Tchen
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation

Attorneys for Empire actor Jussie Smollett said Tuesday morning that charges alleging he filed a false report with Chicago police regarding a hate crime against himself have been dropped. The development follows reports that Cook County, Illinois’s top prosecutor lobbied the Chicago Police Department to hand off the Smollett case to the FBI amid pressure by an ex-aide to former first lady Michelle Obama.

USA Today, citing text messages and emails from Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx’s office, reported earlier this month that 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.”

Although Foxx later recused herself from the case, Fox 32 Chicago Rafer Weigel reports nobody he’s talked to believes the prosecutor actually did so.


Police charge that Smollett, who is black and gay, staged a racist and homophobic attack against himself in downtown Chicago on  January 29 due to frustrations with his salary of $100,000 per episode. He was hit with 16 felonies in connection to the incident. Amid his legal woes, executive producers of the hit Fox show cut Smollett from the season’s final episodes.

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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