WASHINGTON — President Obama's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, carefully avoided talk of calls for the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a lengthy interview with BuzzFeed's Another Round last week.
Jarrett, who hails from Chicago and served with Emanuel when he was Obama's first White House Chief of Staff, told Another Round it would not be right for her to comment on the growing calls or Emanuel's resignation coming from criminal justice advocates in the city.
"As you know Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, has announced she's taking a look into the situation in Chicago," Jarrett said. "So I really shouldn't comment on Chicago in particular because it's under that investigation of hers."
Her comments were more careful when it came to Emanuel then those of the current White House Chief Of Staff, Denis McDonough. He told NBC's Meet The Press Sunday Emanuel still has the president's support.
"I just had a chance to be back in Chicago, actually, my in-laws live in Chicago and I tell you, the city looks great, the opportunities there are boundless," McDonough said. "And so, I think what the president sees is a city and a people of Chicago and a mayor of Chicago that continue to do very good work."
Jarrett said a Justice Department investigation into the practices of the Chicago police could result in sweeping changes to law enforcement in the city.
"The good thing about the Justice Department is that they can go in and if they see a trend for example, they can require the local city government and the police force to enter into a consent decree with them to make changes," she said. "And without those changes, there can be other consequences. So that's the advantage of having a Justice Department that's able to say, ‘We're here to ensure that the liberties and freedoms of average citizens are protected.’"
The calls for Emanuel's resignation began last month after footage of city police shooting a black teenager was revealed under a judge's order. That helped spur city-wide protests of the Chicago police that Emanuel has tried to quell with promises of a top-to-bottom review of police practices.
In the interview with BuzzFeed at the White House Friday, Jarrett praised the protests, giving them credit for the current focus on the Chicago police.
"We've seen so many peaceful demonstrations. I don't think we get sufficient credit to the demonstrators who are out there in the cold in Chicago — all over — demonstrating, trying to say we want change," she said.
The striking video of Chicago police shooting the 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014 was difficult to watch for many, including Jarrett.
"As a mom, I wasn't sure I could watch it and I thought to myself, 'I owe it to him to look at it,' and the first time I looked at it — I’ve said this before — it was like a hot poker in my stomach," she told Another Round.
"And each time I've seen it it's been the exact same feeling," Jarett went on. "And I just think about how could that happen to a young man? Boy! He's not even an adult yet, he was 17 years old — a kid."