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By Allan Smith
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning that the FBI and Department of Justice would review the decision by Illinois prosecutors to drop all charges facing actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly fabricating a hate crime.
Trump called the prosecutors’ decision “an embarrassment to our Nation!”
The DOJ declined to comment. Smollett attorney Tina Glandian said on “Today” that “we have nothing to be concerned about” regarding the potential federal probe.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office stunned many on Tuesday by suddenly dropping all of the charges facing Smollett for allegedly filing a false police report after claiming in late January to have been beaten up and subjected to homophobic and racist slurs by two masked men in Chicago. Smollett, who is black and gay, said those attackers also put a noose around his neck and poured what he said was bleach on him. Smollett additionally claimed his attackers yelled “This is MAGA country” during the beating, a reference to Trump’s campaign slogan.
Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts for filing that report.
Police had said that Smollett, a star on the Fox TV show “Empire,” orchestrated the alleged hate crime in January because he was unhappy with his salary on the program. Smollett was cut from the final episodes of the fifth season.
Chicago police said they were blindsided by charges being dropped.
In a brief news conference after those charges were dropped, Smollett insisted he was “truthful” from the onset, adding that he’s ready to get back to his career and life. His attorney, Patricia Holmes, slammed Chicago police for their public handling of the case, saying they should “not jump ahead and utilize the press to convict people before they are tried in the court of law.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, blasted the decision to drop the charges.
“This is without a doubt, a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you are in a position of influence and power you’ll get treated one way, other people will be treated another way, ” Emanuel said angrily.
As part of the agreement to drop charges, Smollett forfeited $10,000 in bail to the city of Chicago.
Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday that after reviewing Smollett’s community service and willingness to turn over that $10,000, they believed the decision to drop charges was “just.” Prosecutors said that they did not “exonerate” Smollett by dropping those charges.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police’s Martin Preib expressed the union’s “outrage” at the decision and renewed its call for a federal investigation of State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx’s role in the case. Foxx recused herself because of “potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses,” a spokesperson for her office told NBC News.
On Wednesday, Foxx said she played no role in the decision and insisted Smollett did not get special treatment from her office.
“Mr. Smollett was afforded the same opportunity that anyone in Cook County who had a nonviolent offense and the required background check would get,” Foxx told NBC Chicago. “I was not part of the charging decision,” she said.