Federal agents raid offices of Ald. Ed Burke

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Federal agents Thursday raided two offices of a powerful Chicago alderman whose law firm represented President Trump for more than a decade, though it was not immediately clear whether the operation was related to the president.

Approximately 15 agents showed up without warning at Ald. Ed Burke's office in City Hall at around 7:30 a.m., told staff to leave and pulled brown paper across its glass doors blocking the view while agents completed their work. Another team of agents showed up at Burke's office in the city's 14th Ward and papered over the windows there. The Sun-Times reported that the agents left the ward office with a cardboard file box, a computer and two computer monitors. The paper's report added that agents left Burke's City Hall office approximately seven hours after they arrived, doing so by a back way to avoid waiting reporters.

U.S. attorney's office spokesman Joseph Fitzpatrick and FBI Chicago spokeswoman Janine Wheeler told The Associated Press the FBI was "executing search warrants at multiple locations" in Chicago. 

No arrests were made or were imminent, according to the Chicago Tribune. Officials have not yet commented on the nature of the raids or what they're seeking. It's unclear whether Burke or someone else in his organization is the target of the investigation.

A message left at Burke's ward office wasn't returned. There was no answer at his City Hall office. His law office declined comment.

The 74-year-old Democrat chairs the City Council's finance committee and is the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history. He has been caught up in several federal investigations during his time in politics, most notably a 1990s probe into so-called "ghost payrolling" in city government.

"I’ve been in office for 49 years. I’ve been under investigation in the past. Nothing has ever come of it, and I’ve always cooperated. And I’ll cooperate with whatever this investigation is," Burke told FOX 32 News.

"I am completely confident that at the end of the day nothing will be found amiss in this instance either," Burke said in a statement to the Tribune.

He is also the lead partner in the law firm of Klafter and Burke, which represented Trump in property tax disputes involving the city's Trump International Hotel and Tower, which opened in 2009.

Burke has filed at least six lawsuits on Trump's behalf that have sought to recoup millions of dollars in property taxes. According to the Sun-Times, Burke's firm saved Trump more than $14.1 million between 2009 and 2015 by persuading the Cook County Assessor and the Cook County Board of Review to lower the value of hotel rooms and retail space owned by Trump.

The law firm also has handled property tax appeals for another Chicago building owned by Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.

In May, Burke announced that his firm no longer was representing Trump, citing "irreconcilable differences." At the time, the Trump Organization was seeking property tax refunds in five separate cases.

Ald. Howard Brookins of the 21st Ward, whose office neighbors Burke's, said his workers noticed brown paper over the alderman's office door. Brookins told FOX 32 News he wishes Burke well and called him a "pillar" of the city council.

Burke was first elected in 1969, winning the office left vacant by his father Ald. Joe Burke who had been a Cook County Sherriff's policeman. Ed Burke was a Chicago police sergeant at the time he became an alderman.

Lionized for his strong opposition to then-Mayor Harold Washington, the city's first African American chief executive, the role earned him scornful disdain in some parts of Chicago.

The Burke-family is currently facing its most severe challenge. Burke's brother, Dan Burke, lost his state representative seat in March in a primary challenge by Aaron Ortiz.

Burke, who is up for re-election in February in an increasingly Hispanic ward, had come under growing pressure over his relationship with a president known for his hard-line views on immigration.

"In the five decades that Ald. Burke has been in office, he has used his position to enrich himself and his political cronies while being an impediment to political progress and community empowerment," former Chicago mayoral candidate and U.S. Rep.-elect Chuy Garcia said in a statement. "Make no mistake: Ald. Burke is the last bastion of Chicago machine politics.

"Burke’s legacy over half a century will be obstructing Harold Washington, Chicago’s only reform Mayor, cutting Donald Trump’s property taxes on the backs of working families, feeding at the trough of greed and corruption, and finally being caught for his own misdeeds," Garcia added. "All of Chicago is hoping justice finally prevails."

The Associated Press and Fox News contributed to this report.

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