President Donald Trump went off on actor Jussie Smollett in a speech in Chicago on Monday, comparing Smollett’s claim of a MAGA-fueled hate crime earlier this year to the Democrats’ current impeachment inquiry.
“It is a scam. A real big scam. Just like the impeachment of your president is a scam,” Trump said to cheers before a crowd at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference.
He added, “Then you look what is going on. Smollett is still trying to get away with it. He would have been better off is he paid his $100,000 bill.”
The city of Chicago sued Smollett to recover about $130,000 in police overtime as officers investigated his claims that he was attacked early one morning in January. A federal judge last week refused to throw out the case.
Smollett, who was then a cast member on “Empire,” reported that his attackers yelled “MAGA country.” That is a reference to Make America Great Again, Trump’s campaign slogan.
But police said that they believed that Smollett staged the attack. Smollett was indicted on more than a dozen charges, but those counts were dropped weeks later. The abrupt dimissal of the charges is now the subject of a separate probe.
Smollett has maintained that he was innocent.
Trump initially expressed concerns about the attack. “I can tell you that it’s horrible. It doesn’t get worse,” he told reporters on Jan. 31.
But after Smollett was arrested for staging the attack, Trump wrote on Twitter, “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA.”
In his speech in Chicago, Trump appeared to refer to Smollett’s actions as a “hate crime.”
“Then you have the case of this wise guy Jussie Smollett, who beat up … himself,” Trump said to laughs from the crowd.
And he said MAGA country did it. MAGA country. That’s a hate crime. a hate crime,” Trump said.