President Donald Trump on Monday equated the case of a hate crime allegation made by actor Jussie Smollett to the current impeachment process being imposed by Congress, calling both a “scam.”
While speaking to a group of police chiefs in Chicago, Trump railed against the city’s Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on a number of fronts and then pivoted to taking on the Smollett case.
“Then you have the case of this wise guy, Jussie Smollett who beat up himself,” Trump said. “And he said MAGA country did it – MAGA country … That’s a hate crime and it’s a scam. It’s a real big scam just like the impeachment of your president is a scam.”
Trump claimed: “Smollett is still trying to get away with it. He would have been better off if he paid his $100,000 bill.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called Trump comments during the speech “ignorant buffoonery.”
“It’s no surprise that @realDonaldTrump brought his insulting, ignorant buffoonery to Chicago. Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and we will not let anyone — no matter how high the office — denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city,” Lightfoot tweeted following Trump’s speech.
Smollett, who is gay and black, claimed earlier this year to have been the target of a hate crime. He has alleged that one of his attackers said, “This MAGA country, n****r.”
After police investigated the case for weeks, they said investigators believed Smollett staged the attack to bolster his profile and career.
Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts but weeks later prosecutors unexpectedly dropped all charges. Smolett’s attorney has said he denies making any false claims to investigators.
Johnson, Chicago’s police superintendent, has asserted Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack and take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
A legal battle is currently being fought in federal court as Chicago seeks to recover more than $130,000 to cover police overtime during the investigation of Smollett’s report. The actor has refused for months to pay the city. His attorney has said he won’t pay and that he denies making any false claims to investigators.
Though Trump has asserted that the impeachment inquiry is a “scam,” evidence backs up the claims made in the intelligence community whistleblower report about the White House’s interactions with Ukraine – the report which sparked the inquiry. Impeachment is also part of a constitutionally spelled out separation of powers.
It’s likely the House will vote to impeach Trump, but the inquiry’s fate in the Senate, where Republicans retain a majority, remains unclear.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Brad Parks and Bill Kirkos contributed to this report.