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Ex-aide to Michelle Obama denies trying to sway outcome of Smollett case

White House Council Tina Tchen (left) at a White House, Dept. of Labor and Center for American Progress regional forum, on how businesses can meet the needs of working families, on Monday, April 28, 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff said Wednesday that her behind-the-scenes communications with Cook County’s top prosecutor about the case involving actor Jussie Smollett were not intended at influencing the outcome of the case.

Facing backlash following the decision Tuesday to drop felony charges that Smollett faked a hate crime against himself, Tina Tchen said she simply reached out to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to put her in touch with Smollett’s family after Smollett reported that he was a victim of an attack in River North.

“I know members of the Smollett family based on prior work together,” Tchen said in a statement released Wednesday. “Shortly after Mr. Smollett reported he was attacked, as a family friend, I contacted Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who I also know from prior work together. My sole activity was to put the chief prosecutor in the case in touch with an alleged victim’s family who had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public.”

Last month, the Sun-Times reported that Tchen passed Foxx’s number to a relative of the actor. Foxx has acknowledged that she tried to persuade Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI after the family member expressed concerns regarding leaked information about the investigation — information that media outlets attributed to “police sources.”

After police determined that Smollett was not a victim and allegedly staged the attack, Foxx cited her conversations with the family member and other communications as the reason she recused herself from Smollett’s prosecution.

The move Tuesday dropping charges against the “Empire” actor stunned many in the city, including Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Wednesday, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called on Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to review the handling of Smollett’s case, saying the decision sets a “dangerous precedent for high profile cases.”

The attorney for Smollett said Wednesday that politics and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, in particular, had nothing to do with the decision to drop all charges against her client.

Contributing: Andy Grimm


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