US President Donald Trump tweeted on March 28 that the FBI and Department of Justice will review the “outrageous” case of ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago, calling it an “embarrassment” to the country.
Prosecutors offered little explanation and infuriated Chicago’s police chief and mayor this week when they dropped 16 felony counts against Smollett related to making a false police report, yet still insisted the actor faked a racist, anti-gay attack on himself in January.
Trump tweeted: “FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!”
The two brothers who claim they worked with the actor to stage the January attack are lying, according to Smollett attorney Tina Glandian. She said Smollett, who is black and gay, had hired one brother as a personal trainer but had no idea who attacked him along a Chicago street until the brothers were later identified by police.
Police said investigators believe Smollett hired the brothers to stage the early-morning January 29 attack, and that Smollett hoped to gain attention to help advance his career. Police also allege that before the attack, Smollett sent a letter threatening himself to the Chicago television studio where ‘Empire’ is shot. The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment.
Smollett has repeatedly insisted the attack was real, saying two masked men used racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an “unknown substance” on him. Police said Smollett also told detectives the attackers yelled he was in ‘MAGA country’, an apparent reference to Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan.
Prosecutors initially charged Smollett with one felony count, in February. Then earlier this month, a grand jury indicted him on 15 more counts.
In a stunning reversal March 26, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office abruptly dropped all charges against Smollett, abandoning the criminal case only five weeks after the allegations were filed.
In return, prosecutors said, the actor agreed to let the city keep his $10,000 in bail. The dismissal drew a backlash and raised the question of why Smollett was not forced to admit any wrongdoing.
Among those sure to keep pressing for answers is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He appeared blindsided by the decision and visibly angry during a Tuesday press conference, calling it “a whitewash of justice.”