A Chicago police union is urging the feds to investigate Cook County's top prosecutor for interfering with the police investigation of Empire actor Jussie Smollett.
Smollett, 36, made headlines when he claimed he was the victim of a brutal racist and homophobic hate crime outside his Chicago condo on Jan. 29.
According to an investigative report by the Chicago Tribune, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx was approached by a politically-connected lawyer close to Chicago's most prominent political families, the Obamas and the Emanuels.
Email and text messages exchanged between Foxx and lawyer Tina Tchen, who was chief of staff for former first lady Michelle Obama, shows Tchen contacted Foxx to urge her to ask Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn the case over to the feds.
ABC7 in Chicago reports that Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham wrote the Justice Department requesting an investigation into Foxx's alleged interference in the case.
Graham wants the feds to determine whether Foxx broke any laws.
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The messages between Foxx and Tchen began on Feb. 1, three days after Smollett told police he was beaten by 2 Trump supporters who yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
In one email, Foxx told Tchen she relayed the message to Johnson, pictured left, about dropping the Smollett case and turning it over to the feds.
"Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation," Foxx wrote to Tchen.
That same day, Foxx texted Smollett's relative with good news.
"Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask," Foxx wrote. "Trying to figure out logistics. I'll keep you posted."
"Omg this would be a huge victory," the Smollett relative replied.
"I make no guarantees, but I'm trying," Foxx replied.
"I understand," the Smollett relative typed. "I appreciate the effort."
The police kept the case and Foxx recused herself on Feb. 19, a day before Smollett turned himself in after he was charged with a felony count of lying to police.
Graham says Foxx recusing herself is not enough.
"That recusal is wholly insufficient. In order for Ms. Foxx to properly charge and try this case, her entire office should have recused itself and a special prosecutor been appointed," Graham said in a statement.
Kiera Ellis, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said Tchen contacted Foxx on behalf of the Smollett family because they had "concerns about the investigation."
Ellis said Foxx reached out to Superintendent Johnson when they still believed Smollett was a victim.
"When she initially engaged in the communications, Mr. Smollett was still believed to be the victim of the crime," Ellis said. "As the investigation started to change and it became a possibility that he could actually be a suspect, that is when she made the decision (to recuse herself)."
The police union, which has been at odds with the state's attorney in the past, says Foxx went too far in her apparent favoritism of Smollett.
But other observers say a federal investigation is not warranted at this stage.
"I think there are additional questions that need to be answered by Foxx and the police department," said Laura Washington, an ABC7 political analyst. "I don't think it's to the stage of being a federal investigation."
She added: "The FOP has never been a friend [of Foxx's]. Stick it to her and raise questions about her ability to be a good state's attorney."
Others agree that Foxx did not break any laws.
"If her motivation is about the integrity of the investigation and ensuring that the investigation was properly conducted, I don't see an ethical issue there," said Sam Jones, of John Marshall Law School.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of felony disorder for lying to police. He faces a maximum of 64 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Photos by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images, Scott Olson/Getty Images