US

Trump: Jussie Smollett Case Will Be Reviewed by FBI, Department of Justice

By Zachary Stieber

President Donald Trump said that federal authorities will review the case against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.

Following a weekslong probe into an alleged hate crime against Smollett, the Chicago Police Department announced that he had faked the alleged assault, hiring two friends to pose as Trump supporters to beat him up.

A grand jury returned 16 felony counts stemming from filing a false police report.

But on March 26, in a stunning turn of events, prosecutors decided to drop all the charges against Smollett despite the lead prosecutor admitting that the case was solid.

Trump on white house lawn
President Donald Trump speaks with the media after stepping off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, on March 24, 2019. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo )

Calling the deal “an agreement,” the Cook County State Attorney’s Office said the charges were dropped in exchange for 16 hours of community service and the actor agreeing to forfeit his $10,000 bond.

As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel considers suing Smollett to recover the money spent on the investigation, Trump commented on the situation early March 28, alerting people that he was getting federal authorities involved.

“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!” he said in a post on Twitter.

The FBI is already conducting a probe into a threatening letter Smollett received on set on “Empire” in Chicago. According to the police, the letter was orchestrated by Smollett himself.

Trump’s announcement came as the National District Attorney’s Association condemned the prosecutor’s office for how it handled the case.

In a press release (pdf) about best practices for prosecutors dealing with high-profile cases, the group stated: “The local prosecutors involved in the case must weigh all the facts and determine the best path forward to ensure justice is served.”

Referring to how lead prosecutor Kim Foxx recused herself from the case for speaking with a member of Smollett’s family before the actor was arrested, the group said, “When a chief prosecutor recuses him or herself, the recusal must apply to the entire office … . This is consistent with best practices for prosecutors’ offices around the country.”

This image provided by the Chicago Police Department and taken from surveillance video shows two people of interest in an attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walking along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, early on Jan. 29, 2019. The pair was later identified as Abel and Ola Osundairo. (Courtesy of Chicago Police Department via AP)

Regarding Foxx taking advice from a former aide to former first lady Michelle Obama, the group stated: “Prosecutors should not take advice from politically connected friends of the accused. Each case should be approached with the goal of justice for victims while protecting the rights of the defendant.”

Taking aim at how the agreement did not include Smollett admitting wrongdoing, the group added: “When a prosecutor seeks to resolve a case through diversion or some other alternative to prosecution it should be done so with an acknowledgment of culpability on the part of the defendant. A case with the consequential effects of Mr. Smollett’s should not be resolved without a finding of guilt or innocence.”

The group also said that Smollett’s record should not have been immediately expunged.

The letter came as Smollett’s attorneys said city officials should stop referring to the case and as Foxx defended the decision to drop the charges.

“I believe that the outcome—him having to forfeit the $10,000, having to do community service, based on the allegations, and again the (low level) felony and no (criminal) background, are an outcome that we could expect with this type of case,” she told CBS Chicago.

Foxx declined to answer a question regarding whether she believes Smollett is innocent.

Foxx also denied that anyone tried to influence the case, despite messages between her and the former Obama aide, Tina Tchen, being released by the Chicago Sun-Times.

“There was no attempt, whatsoever, to influence the outcome of this case,” Foxx said. “None whatsoever.”