Attorney and former Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, Tina Tchen, is under the public eye after trading messages with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx about the Jussie Smollett hoax. The letter came out shortly after Jussie had all charges dropped against him on Tuesday.
Once she graduated from Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, Tchen started practicing law in 1983. Before she became the person in charge at the Chicago branch of Buckley LLC, she worked in the Obama White House. In the beginning, she was the Director of the Office of Public Engagement, and eventually, she worked as Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff. Because of Tchen’s extensive legal background, her involvement in Jussie Smollett’s investigation has received a bit of skepticism.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Tchen sent Foxx a text on the morning of February 1st. Apparently, she said that she “wanted to give you a call on behalf of Jussie Smollett and family who I know. They have concerns about the investigation.” This occurred just three days before Smollett claimed that he was attacked by two men on his way home from Subway.
The Sun-Times also reported that later that day, a relative of Smollet’s also sent a text to Foxx, which ended up starting a relationship that caused Foxx to challenge the case against Smollett. It was also shown that Foxx sent an email to Tchen, stating: “Spoke to [Chicago Police] Superintendent [Eddie] Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation. He is reaching out now and will get to me shortly.”
On Tuesday, prosecutors dropped all of the charges against Smollett. Smollett, an actor from the show Empire, was accused of faking an anti-gay, racist attack. In a decision that didn’t sit well with Superintendent Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Smollett agreed to do community service, as well as, let the city keep his $10,000 bail. Despite believing that he is guilty of faking the assault, prosecutors didn’t provide any reason as to why they dropped the charges only five weeks after filing them.
It’s unclear why Tchen decided to send Foxx an email, and their connection doesn’t seem to be understood, either. Despite multiple attempts to contact her, Fox News wasn’t provided with the opportunity to speak to Tchen. It is still unclear as to whether or not illegal or unethical actions were made by Tchen. According to the Illinois ethical code for attorneys: “A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
According to the deputy administrator and chief counsel at the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, Jim Grogan, the law usually only applies to lawyers who obstruct the legal process by wasting the court’s time. He doesn’t believe that there are any precedents in Illinois that implicate an attorney who doesn’t have a client in the case. Tchen hasn’t made it clear if she was working for someone in the Smollett family while she sent the email to Foxx. “The fun thing about that rule is that it’s so broadly written. You’ve got to say to yourself, what’s my role as a lawyer being involved in all this?” said Grogan.
In 2009, Tchen started her position in the White House in the Office of Public Engagement. Throughout the next eight years, Tchen would become the assistant to the president, the Executive Director of the Council of Women and Girls, and the Chief of Staff for Michelle Obama. In September of 2017, Tchen became a partner at Buckley LLC, who describes Tchen as a “leading voice in the national conversation on fighting sexual harassment, gender equality and discrimination.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently selected Tchen to investigate workplace harassment to “advise us on workplace culture issues.” Apparently, the organization has been going through leadership issues after questions regarding sexual harassment, and racial and gender discrimination within the organization.
Tchen has received a number of awards throughout her career, as well. Not only has she won the Women of Achievement award from the Anti-Defamation League, but she’s also won the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement award from the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession. Growing up together in Beachwood, Ohio, Tchen is also a long-time friend of Amy Rule, the First Lady of Chicago.