President Donald Trump on Thursday lambasted the handling of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s case as “an absolute embarrassment to our country” and reiterated that he has asked federal authorities to review the case.
“I think the case in Chicago is an absolute embarrassment to our country and I have asked that it be – that they look at it,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn as he left for a political rally. “Somebody has to at least take a very good hard look.”
Trump’s comments on Smollett’s case come as his 2020 re-election campaign is shifting into high gear and he seeks to highlight issues that animate his base.
While campaigning during the 2018 midterm elections, Trump sparked a national debate when he slammed NFL players as unpatriotic for kneeling during the National Anthem as a protest against racial inequality in the US justice system.
Trump announced earlier Thursday that the Justice Department would review Smollett’s case after conservatives decried a prosecutor’s decision Tuesday to unexpectedly drop all charges against the actor, who was accused of staging a hate crime against himself in Chicago.
“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “It is an embarrassment to our Nation!”
The Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment when asked about the President’s tweet.
Smollett went to police in January claiming he had been attacked by two men who tied a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, used racial and homophobic slurs, and shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Initially reacting to Smollett’s claims, Trump denounced the alleged attack, as others did, telling reporters in January, “I think that’s horrible. It doesn’t get worse as far as I’m concerned.”
But after Chicago police investigated, they alleged that Smollett had hired two men to stage the attack, though those charges were dropped by a prosecutor Tuesday.
On the day Smollett was arrested, Trump tweeted, “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments?”
CNN’s Laura Jarrett contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.