President Trump announced on Twitter that the FBI and Justice Department will look into the Jussie Smollett case after prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against the “Empire” actor, who had been accused of staging and falsely reporting a hate-crime attack.
“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “It is an embarrassment to our Nation!”
Departing the White House on Thursday afternoon, the president told reporters that he asked the federal law enforcement agencies to look into the case.
“I think the case in Chicago is an absolute embarrassment to our country,” Trump said. “Somebody has to at least take a very good, hard look at it.”
Smollett had been charged with falsifying a police report by claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in January.
The actor told police he was attacked by two masked men as he was leaving a Subway restaurant near his apartment in Chicago around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. Smollett, who is black and gay, initially said the men shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck. He claimed the alleged attackers yelled, “MAGA country” — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The actor said he sustained injuries to his clavicle bone and bruised ribs during the attack.
Police later identified and questioned two “persons of interest” captured on surveillance video near the scene around the time of the alleged attack. The men, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 by check to help orchestrate and stage the crime after he became upset that a threatening letter — addressed to him and sent to the Fox set where “Empire” is filmed — did not get enough attention.
The crude letter was sent in an envelope that contained a powdery substance and had “MAGA” written on it. The substance was later determined to be aspirin. Police said that they believe Smollett sent the letter to himself.
According to Smollett, the $3,500 check was for nutrition and training advice.
The actor was indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly falsifying a police report, a Class 4 felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison.
But in a striking development, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against Smollett on Tuesday, noting the actor’s record of community service and his agreement to forfeit a $10,000 bond.
A judge then ordered the case against Smollett sealed and his record wiped clean.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision, accusing Smollett of using hate-crime legislation to “self-promote” his career.
“This is a whitewash of justice,” Emanuel said.
On Wednesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx defended the decision by her staff to drop charges against Smollett.
Foxx, who recused herself from the case because she had discussed it with a Smollett family member, didn’t directly answer when asked if she believed Smollett was innocent.
First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, who handled the case, has said he does not believe Smollett is innocent and that the decision to drop the charges against him was not an exoneration.
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