Did former Michelle Obama aide play a role in Jussie Smollett's 'suspicious' release? Critics allege political 'interference'
Latest reports have emerged that days before the verdict, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx was exchanging texts with former Michelle Obama aide Tina Tchen and one of Smollett's relatives.
Disgraced television actor Jussie Smollett was freed of all charges on Tuesday, in an absurd twist which shocked the nation weeks after the actor was arrested for filing a false police report. The 'Empire' actor had claimed in January that he suffered from a racist and homophobic attack. However, Chicago police launched an investigation and found the reported attack to be a hoax allegedly perpetrated by Smollet himself.
Latest reports have emerged that days before the verdict, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx was exchanging texts with former Michelle Obama aide Tina Tchen and one of Smollett's relatives. The relative in question has not been identified, however, critics have pointed out the close ties between Tchen and Smollett's sisters.
The disgraced actor himself has also been pictured with the Obamas at the White House. He even tweeted a photograph of himself with the former first couple in February last year. Smollett had also once danced on stage with Michelle in a viral video from the same event, according to The Sun.
The Cook County State's Attorney's office on Tuesday said: "After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr Smollett's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case"
Smollett's abrupt release even elicited a response from Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the dropping of charges a "whitewash" and demanded to know why all the charges were dropped against the actor.
Emanuel, speaking outside the court, said: "[Smollett] did this all in the name of self-promotion. He used the laws of the hate crime legislation that all of us have put on the books – to stand up for the values that embody what we believe in. This is a whitewash of justice.”
The Chicago police union has also reportedly slammed the Cook County State Attorney's conduct in the case, deeming it "highly, highly suspicious." The union has also accused her of political "interference" on behalf of the Smollett family.
Reports state that both of Smollett's sister were pictured together with Tchen at an event at Austin's South by Southwest. They also worked for the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. The actor's sister, Jurnee Diana Smollett-Bell, also reportedly visited Tchen in the White House. Chicago Police Department Central Commander Ed Wodnicki, in a statement, said that the dropping of the charges against Smollett was a "punch in the gut" and insisted that he had a "rock solid case.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson said: "At the end of the day, it is Mr Smollett who committed this hoax, period. If he wanted to clear his name, the way to do that is in a court of law so everyone can see the evidence. I stand by the facts of what we produced."
Shortly after all charges were cleared, Smollett released a statement saying: "I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I had been accused of. This has been an incredibly difficult time – honestly one of the worst of my entire life. But I am a man of faith and a man who has knowledge of my history and I would not bring my family our lives or the movement through a fire like this – I just wouldn’t."
Latest reports state that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched an investigation into the case on Wednesday to get to the bottom of the alleged accusations against the state prosecutor's conversation with Tchen to drop charges against Smollett.
President Donald Trump on Thursday also confirmed the federal probe, saying that the FBI and the Justice Department were reviewing Smollett's case. Trump, in a tweet, said: "It is an embarrassment to our Nation!" It is not yet clear whether federal authorities would have any jurisdiction on the case.
Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx is also under fire by critics who say she should have recused her entire office from the case and gotten a special prosecutor to take over it if she was in talks with Tchen and Smollett's relatives.