Federal officials are investigating the circumstances around the Jussie Smollett case after criminal charges against the Empire star were suddenly dismissed Tuesday by Illinois prosecutors.
Thursday afternoon, President Trump told reporters that he had directed federal officials to review the case.
"I think the case in Chicago is an absolute embarrassment to our country. I have asked that they look at it," Trump said. "Somebody has to, at least, take a very good, hard look at it."
Earlier Thursday morning, Trump had tweeted that the FBI and Department of Justice would review the case, which he called “an embarrassment to our Nation!”
It was not immediately clear at the time if Trump had been briefed on the investigation himself or if he was merely responding to Fox News, which had reported on the probe a few minutes before the tweet. (The president frequently tweets in response to Fox News programming.) The White House didn’t respond on the record to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
The actor was charged in January by Chicago authorities who alleged he filed a fake police report claiming he was attacked by two men in a racist and anti-gay ambush.
But the sudden decision by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office on Tuesday to drop the case against Smollett has prompted both criticism and conspiracy theories about alleged political interference.
A former top aide to Michelle Obama has denied trying to influence the case after she reached out to State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in the early stages of the investigation and before any charges were filed. Foxx subsequently handed the case over to a deputy, but said Wednesday her office worked diligently on the case.
“Right now, there’s a lot of emotion,” Foxx told NPR. “And I wholeheartedly believe that in our work we cannot be driven by emotions. We have to be driven by facts.”
Speaking about the reported federal investigation on NBC’s Today, one of Smollett’s attorneys, Tina Glandian, said, “We have nothing to be concerned about because there was nothing on our end to request this.”
“Nothing improper was done,” she added.
“I think in light of what [Smollett] has been through the last two months…he’s told me numerous times, I don’t even care about what happened. I just want to move on,” Glandian said.
“What he has been through after the fact has really been a much harsher attack than what he endured that night,” she said.