As a federal probe into Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s finances reportedly widens, Chicago's most powerful alderman said there's room for compassion toward the Jackson family but also noted the time is getting closer for the embattled congressman to re-emerge.
"I think it's clear that Congressman Jackson is suffering from a mental illness," Ald. Ed Burke told NBC Chicago Friday after an unrelated event. "It's a complicated issue. It becomes more complicated when the person that's ill is in a public role."
Jackson Jr., released Tuesday from the Mayo Clinic, easily won re-election on Nov. 6 after being absent from office since early June.
His wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson, has been an increasing no-show at city council meetings after the Wall Street Journal reported she may be included in the investigation of Jackson Jr. for misuse of campaign funds.
Burke stuck by Sandi Jackson and called her a remarkable public official struggling with a husband whose health "is clearly precarious."
"I'm convinced that Ald. Jackson will do what's right for her constituents and what's right for her family," Burke said, "but I do think she should be afforded the respect and the time that is necessary for her to deal with these personal and public issues."
As for what's next and how an investigation might affect Chicago, Burke said the feds are going to do what they're going to do.
He stopped short of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's comment, though, of suggesting that Jackson should have a conversation with constituents about his intentions.
"Do I think that he needs to address that issue in a public way? I think the time is getting closer when he has to make that decision, but does he have the capacity to make the decision, is his illness such that he cannot address that? I don't know and you don't know," Burke said.