Michelle Obama's former Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen, attempted to have the Jussie Smollett case transferred from the Chicago Police Department to the FBI, according to texts and emails released by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.
Tchen, a Chicago-based attorney, reached out on Feb. 1 to Chicago's top prosecutor Kim Foxx - telling her that the "Empire" actor's family had "concerns" about the investigation.
Smollett was considered at the time to be the victim of an assault, however the actor was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report in connection with a staged hate crime. Last week, a Chicago grand jury slapped Smollett with a 16 count indictment for lying to the police - to which he pleaded not guilty on Thursday.
"Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson," Foxx emailed Tchen on Feb. 1, in reference to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. "I convinced him to Reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation."
Foxx also texted with one of Smollett's relatives whose name was redacted from the text release, saying: "Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask ... Trying to figure out logistics. I’ll keep you posted."
"OMG this would be a huge victory" the family member texted back.
"I make no guarantees, but I'm trying" replied Foxx - who recused herself from the case on Feb. 20.
Foxx recused herself from the investigation before Smollett was charged. Her first deputy, Joe Magats, is overseeing the case.
Foxx said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times that Smollett's family was concerned that aspects of the police investigation were being leaked to media.
“They had no doubt about the quality of the investigation, but believed that the FBI would have a tighter lid on the information,” Foxx told the outlet.
Anthony Guglielmi, the police department's chief spokesman, said Foxx conveyed the request to Johnson that Tchen and the Smollett family member wanted the FBI to take over the investigation. -USA Today
Guglielmi said that the case was not moved to the FBI because "there was a lack of evidence" that Smollett was the victim of a federal hate crime.
"There was no federal jurisdiction," said Guglielmi, who added that the FBI has been assisting the police investigation. "If there was ever a point where they felt it was within federal jurisdiction, it would have easily gone there."
Smollett claimed that he was the victim of a predawn hate crime on January 29 in which two men assaulted him while he was on his way home after buying a sandwich; hurling racial and antigay slurs at him, dousing him in a liquid, placing a noose around his neck (which he was still wearing when police arrived later that morning), and punching him in the face.
Police allege that Smollett, who is black and gay, staged a Jan 29 homophobic, racist attack because he was unhappy with his salary to boost his profile.
The incident sparked national outrage - with the left-leaning mainstream media and prominent Democrats uncritically supporting Smollett's version of events; holding it up as a prime example of violent Donald Trump supporters.
Two suspects in the case, Nigerian-American brothers Ola and Abel Osundario - one of whom has been an extra on Empire, told police that Smollett paid them a combined $3,500 to stage the "attack," and that the three of them had practiced it beforehand. They also said that Smollett was involved in creating a racist letter containing a white substance that was sent to the actor on the Chicago set of Empire.
When the letter failed to achieve the desired level of national outrage, the Osundario brothers say Smollett concocted the hate-crime.