White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders blasted Democrats on Friday for quickly blaming President Donald Trump and his base for a supposed racist attack on actor Jussie Smollett that police now say was a self-inflicted hoax.
And she defended Trump’s decision to weigh in on the scandal with a tweet, saying ‘the president’s pushing back.’
‘There were so many people including a lot of leadership from the Democrat party. Everybody from Nancy Pelosi, Cory Booker, and a number of others – mostly those that are running for president – that quickly came out, attacked the president, blamed the president,’ Sanders said in a ‘Fox & Friends’ interview.
‘And in fact as we learn more, it certainly seems like the only person to blame in this case is Smollett. And it’s another sad example of people so quick to want to attack and come after this president.’
In the hours after Smollett reported what appeared to be a hate crime perpetrated by two Trump supporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker all tweeted support for him, calling the supposed attack ‘an attempted modern-day lynching’ and ‘an affront to our humanity.’
Pelosi later deleted her tweet. The senators have backtracked with qualified statements about condemning racism while waiting for facts to emerge.
Trump laid into Smollett on Thursday after Chicago police arrested the disgraced ‘Empire’ actor and prosecutors charged him with filing a false police report.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders blasted Democrats on Friday for quickly blaming President Donald Trump and his base for a supposed racist attack on actor Jussie Smollett that police now say was a self-inflicted hoax
President Donald Trump defended his ‘Make America Great Again’ base on Thursday, saying Smollett ‘insulted’ them with ‘racist and dangerous comments’ related to a hoax attack he said was committee by men wearing Trump hats and shouting ‘This is MAGA country’
Trump tweeted after police revealed details of Smollett’s plot and spoke to reporters about his arrest, demanding an apology from the actor
Smollett is pictured in an Instagram picture he posted on February 7, 2018; DailyMail.com has blurred out the word ‘f**k’
Jussie Smollett is shown in his mugshot on Thursday morning. The ‘Empire’ actor handed himself in at 5:00 a.m. on charges of filing a false police report and disorderly conduct. Police say he concocted the fake attack because he thought a higher public profile would get him a salary raise from the $100,000 per episode he earned on the TV drama
Smollett had said a pair of men wearing ski masks and ‘Make America Great Again’ hats attacked him on a Chicago street, shouting racist and anti-gay slurs. He claimed they shouted ‘This is MAGA country!’ as they beat him and put a noose around his neck.
Chicago Police Superintendant Eddie Johnson blasted him on Thursday in a press conference, saying he had ‘taken advantage of the pain and anger of racism to further his career, hoping a higher public profile would help him earn more than the $100,000 he was paid for each episode of the TV drama.
Smollett now faces a felony that could land him behind bars for three years, and even more time in prison if he is charged with mail fraud for sending himself a threatening letter containing white powder.
His intentions and ‘lies’ have ‘p****d everybody off’, Johnson said, calling his behavior ‘shameful’ and ‘despicable.’
Sanders said President Trump is ‘fighting back’ against liberals who jumped to the conclusion that someone in Trump’s conservative base was responsible for attacking Smollett
Hours after Smollett’s alleged attack occurred, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker tweeted that the supposed attack was ‘an attempted modern-day lynching’ and ‘an affront to our humanity,’ and urged Congress to make lynching a federal hate crime
Trump let him have it on Twitter, saying the actor maligned his base of supporters by casting them in the role of villains.
‘@JussieSmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?’ the president tweeted, adding the hashtag ‘#MAGA.’
Police have found phone records which they say prove Smollett spoke with brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo an hour before the attack, an hour afterwards and while they were in Nigeria, keeping their heads down, while the case gained global attention.
Police say that Smollett mailed himself a threatening letter at the ‘Empire’ studio in Chicago on January 22, which had ‘MAGA’ written on it and included racist and homophobic slurs.
When that did not win him a pay hike from 20th Century Fox, he allegedly hired the brothers to attack him at 2am on January 29 in what he then told police was a racist and homophobic attack.
They punched him but Smollett gave himself the scratches on his face that were visible in a hospital-bed selfie he took after reporting it to police, the Superintendent said.
While Smollett received an outpouring of sympathy from politicians, celebrities and public figures around the world, the brothers fled to Nigeria afterwards.
Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.
Chicago Police Department Chief Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson
They were tracked down through their use of taxis on the night of the incident and were picked up when they returned to Chicago on February 13.
Once in custody, they told police that Smollett had hired them and said it was because he wanted a higher salary.
He paid them a reported $3,500 to carry out the attack, they said, and promised them $500 more when they returned.
Smollett is in custody awaiting his first court appearance on felony charges of filing a false police report and disorderly conduct. He will appear before a judge at 1.30pm.
During the press conference, Superintendent Johnson revealed Smollett went from being treated as the victim in the case to a suspect when the brothers ‘confessed’ the ‘entire plot’ in the final hour of a 48 hour hold.
That is when they, in their lawyer’s words, ‘manned up’ and revealed that they had been hired to carry out the attack by the actor himself.
Chicago Police Department Chief Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson tore through Smollett at a press conference on Thursday where he labeled him ‘shameful’ and ‘despicable’
President Trump had not spoken publicly about the Smollett case until Thursday’s tweet
Smollett actually furthered the investigation along by going on Good Morning America and confirming that the two people in a grainy surveillance footage still were the men who attacked him.
He was unaware when he made the remark that Chicago PD had identified those men as the Osundairo brothers and that they had them in custody.
‘I come to you today not only as the Superintendent of Chicago Police Department but as a black man who has spent his entire life living in the city of Chicago.
‘I know the racial divide. I know how hard it has been for our city and our nation to come together.
‘Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.
‘I’m left hanging my head and asking why? Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?
When we discovered the actual motive, it p****d everybody off
Chicago Police Department Chief Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson
‘How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see it as an opportunity to manipulate his own public profile?’ Superintendent Johnson said, adding it was a ‘slap in the face ‘ to ‘everyone’ in Chicago.
Smollett has not made any statements since he was taken into custody.
His lawyers said on Wednesday night that he would fight the charges with an ‘aggressive defense’.
In previous statements, his representatives have angrily hit out at the media and insisted that he is the victim.
Police say Smollett cut his own cheek to make it look like he had suffered injuries in the attack. He is shown in a hospital bed selfie FaceTiming Lee Daniels, the show’s creator, hours after the attack
Within hours of him being charged, Smollett’s attorneys arranged for him to hand himself in quietly at Chicago’s 1st District afterwards.
He appeared in his mugshot wearing a black puffer jacket, staring blankly at the camera.
After being processed at the station, he was transferred to the Cook County courthouse where he will appear at 1.30pm. He is being held separately from other detainees.
20th Century Fox, which released a statement hours before he was charged to say it was standing by him, is now reportedly suspending the actor.
A press conference is scheduled for 9am CT during which detectives will give more details about the arrest. It is not yet known where he was or what time he was taken into custody.
‘Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,’ the actor’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said.
‘Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.’
The Osundairo brothers testified before the grand jury for about two and a half hours on Wednesday.
Addressing reporters outside afterwards, their attorney Gloria Schmidt said they’d ‘manned up’ by speaking out against Smollett.
Surveillance footage emerged on Wednesday showing Ola and Abel Osundairo buying ski masks the day before the attack
They have not been arrested or charged and their lawyer said they had not been offered any form of immunity deal in exchange for testifying against Smollett.
‘There was a point where this story needed to be told, and they manned up and they said: “We’re gonna correct this.”
‘Plea deal, immunity, all of that — they don’t’ care about that.’
She said that Smollett was lying, and that she didn’t know how his conscience could let him sleep at night.
There was a point where this story needed to be told and they manned up and they said, “we’re going to correct this”
Gloria Schmidt, lawyer for two Nigerian brothers
‘I think Jussie’s conscience is not letting him sleep right now and he should unload that conscience and come out and tell the American people what happened,’ she added.
‘I think the biggest thing for the American people to know. Is that this story, has a lot of complications to it.
‘We’re not trying to hide anything from the press. But we wanted to make sure that everything checked out.
‘When I say that the police spent countless man-hours trying to piece this together, I mean that, I absolutely mean that.
‘When I say that my clients spent countless hours getting their story out there to the police so that they could do their work, I mean that, too,’ she said.
The brothers’ testimony came after footage emerged of them buying ski masks, a red hat and gloves in a store the day before the attack.
The brothers said Smollett also sent himself this letter to the Fox studio where Empire is filmed a week before the attack. If he did, he faces another 5-10 years in prison on a federal mail fraud charge
It was taken on January 28 and shows brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo inside what looks like a drug store buying the masks and one hat.
Smollett told police that he was attacked by two masked assailants who punched him, poured bleach on him, tied a noose around his neck and called him ‘Empire n****r f****t’.
No footage has ever emerged of the incident itself.
In the video taken inside the store the day earlier, the brothers look calm as they bring the items to the register.
Abel, whose full name is Abimbola, is dressed in a blue plaid jacket. About 30 seconds into the video, he puts his hood up while standing at the register.
His younger brother Ola, who once appeared on Empire as an extra, is in a green jacket.
Abel and Ola Osundairo’s lawyers said on Wednesday night that they ‘manned up’ by telling police that Smollett paid them
Ola appeared on the second season of Empire as an extra. He is shown with Lee Daniels, the show’s creator, on set in 2015
Smollett follows the brothers’ joint Instagram account where they post videos and photographs of themselves working out
Last Thursday, the actor wept as he said ‘who the f*** would make that up’ when addressing the skepticism surrounding his version of events during an interview on Good Morning America
The brothers were picked up by police at Chicago O’Hare Airport on Wednesday night as they returned from Nigeria.
Police seized a red hat from the brothers’ home along with ski masks when they raided it last week. Smollett said his attackers were wearing masks but there was not a description of a red hat in the initial reports.
Police have since shared their belief that at least one of them was wearing a red hat at the time of the attack.
Smollett’s family, many of whom are also actors, have spoken out repeatedly in support of him since the January 29 attack as have many of his co-stars on Empire.
Among them is Gabby Sidibe, his roommate at one time, who said on Instagram on Wednesday: ‘I know him. I believe him.’
Fox also insisted that he was not being written out of the show, as had been claimed, and called him a ‘consummate professional’ in a statement.
Smollett’s lawyers include Mark Geragos, who has represented Michael Jackson and Colin Kaepernick, in the past.
When news of the attack first emerged on January 29 and 30, Smollett was inundated with support across the political spectrum.
Among those who tweeted their condemnation of him were Democratic presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.
But as days went by with no suspects on the horizon, details about the case and the police’s investigation into it began to cast doubt on Smollett’s version of events.
One of the earliest sources of speculation was the fact that Smollett waited 42 minutes to call the police then refused to hand over his phone to the police for them to verify his story.
He then handed over redacted files that police described as ‘insufficient’.
Frustrated with the coverage of his case, he hit out at the media for reporting on leaked information coming from within the Chicago police department and insisted he was the victim.
He then went on Good Morning America to protest his innocence.
In an hour-long interview with Robin Roberts, he wept as he recalled the attack and abhorred the reaction to it.
Gloria Schmidt, the brothers’ lawyer, said Smollett was lying and that she didn’t know how his conscience could let him sleep at night
Choking back tears, he explained when asked why it took so long for him to contact the authorities: ‘There is a level of pride there.
‘We live in a society where as a gay man you are considered somehow to be weak and I am not weak. I am not weak and we as a people are not weak.’
Later, he added how desperate he was for them to find footage of the attack.
‘I want that video found so badly because, for probably four reasons.
‘Number one, I want them to find the people that did it.
‘Number two, I want them to stop being able to say ‘alleged’ attack.
‘Number three, I want them to see that I fought back,’ he continued, welling-up.
‘I want a little gay boy who might watch this to see that I fought the f*** back. They ran off,’ I didn’t,’ he said.
After it emerged that Smollett knew the brothers and may have been involved in the staging of the attack, the celebrities and politicians who rushed to support him walked back their claims.
Nancy Pelosi deleted her tweet about it and Cory Booker said he would now be ‘withholding judgement’ until more information emerged.
Kamala Harris said, when questioned about her tweet that it was a ‘modern day lynching’, that she was ‘very concerned’.
Key moments in reported attack on actor Jussie Smollett
January 29, 2019
Smollet is seen with a cut cheek on Jan. 29
Jussie Smollett tells Chicago police he was physically attacked by two men in downtown Chicago while walking home from getting food from a Subway restaurant at 2am.
The black and openly gay actor tells authorities the men used racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an ‘unknown substance’ on him.
Smollett told detectives that the attackers yelled he was in ‘MAGA country,’ an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan, which some critics of Trump have claimed is a racist dog whistle.
Chicago police say they’ve reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none of the videos show the attack.
Police obtain and release images of two people they would like to question.
Reports of Smollett’s attack draw outrage and support on social media, including from U.S. Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.
Both Booker and Harris called the incident a ‘modern day lynching’.
Joe Biden said: ‘We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts.’
Police released this image of ‘persons of interest’ taken near the reported attack
Trump tells reporters at the White House that he saw a story the night before about Smollett and that, ‘It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.’
Smollett’s family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime.
Smollett’s family says he ‘has told the police everything’ and ‘his story has never changed,’ disputing assertions leveled on social media that he has been less than cooperative and changed his story.
Smollett issues a statement telling people that he is OK and thanking them for their support.
He says he is working with authorities and has been ‘100 percent factual and consistent on every level.’
Smollett gives sold-out concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
At the end of the set, he announces that he fought back against his attackers, calling himself ‘the gay Tupac’.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters is in attendance at the concert.
Smollet is seen performing on February 2, where he called himself ‘the gay Tupac’
February 5th: Chicago PD releases incident report which reveals Smollett did not want to call police. There is no mention of the MAGA country remark which he gave in a follow-up interview
Brandon Z. Moore, his manager, gives police a screenshot to prove their call.
February 11th: Smollett finally hands over redacted phone records to prove the phone call but police label them ‘insufficient’.
His neighbors say they don’t believe his version of events.
February 12th: Smollett’s rep releases statement to say he is the victim and that he has been telling the truth
February 14th: Good Morning America airs the full interview with Smollett, in which he blasts speculation that the attack was staged as itself racist and hateful.
Hours later, it emerges that two Nigerian brothers were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on their return from Nigeria the night before.
Cops identify the two men as the individuals seen in the surveillance images released from the night of January 29 but will not share their names.
Two television stations in Chicago simul report the widespread belief among investigators that Smollett staged the attack as a hate hoax.
Chicago’s police superintendent later said that he had no evidence to prove that the attack was a hoax.
Producers of ‘Empire’ dispute media reports that Smollett’s character was being written off the show.
High-powered criminal defense attorney Michael Monico reveals that he is representing Smollett.
Brothers Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, 27, and Abimbola ‘Abel’ Osundairo, 25, were detained by police on February 13
Police logs show the items that cops seized from the Nigerian brothers’ Chicago home
DailyMail.com confirms they are brothers Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, 27, and Abimbola ‘Abel’ Osundairo, 25.
Later, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielimi says the two ‘persons of interest’ are now considered suspects. He says the men are in custody but have not been charged with a crime.
Chicago police release two men without charges after arresting them on suspicion of assaulting Smollett and holding them for nearly 48 hours.
A police spokesman said the two are no longer considered suspects and that investigators have ‘new evidence’ to consider as a result of questioning them.
A police spokesman said that the investigation had ‘shifted’ after detectives questioned the two brothers about the attack and released them without charges.
Smollett hired Michael Cohen’s high-powered criminal defense attorney, Michael Monico, as the police investigation into the attack he reported last month took a sudden shift amid allegations of a hoax.
Smollett’s lawyers said on Saturday the actor felt ‘victimized by reports he played a role in the assault, and that Smollett would continue cooperating with police.
A police spokesman said that Chicago police have told Smollett’s attorneys they want to do a follow-up interview with the actor.
A spokesperson for Smollett’s lawyers said she couldn’t comment on whether Smollett had agreed to another interview.
This is the letter Smollett allegedly received at the Fox studio, a week before the January 29 incident. No photographs of it emerged until after the alleged attack. He reported the letter to the police when he received it along with Empire producer Dennis Hammer
Stars and politicians who spoke out in support of Smollett walk back their condemnation of the attack amid growing suspicion that it is a hate hoax
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the Smollett case
The Osundairo brothers speak with police and prosecutors in Chicago but are halted at the last minute before going to testify before a grand jury.
Smollett hires Colin Kaepernick’s attorney Mark Geragos and his legal team present a ‘hail Mary’ piece of evidence which stops the brothers’ testimony
State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx recuses herself from the case citing her ‘familiarity with potential witnesses’
Leaked information from the brothers’ meetings with prosecutors and police emerges. They reportedly claimed Smollett was involved in sending himself the letter on January 22
Fox says Smollett is not being written out of Empire contrary to reports and Smollett’s co-stars speak out in support of him.
Smollett in his February 21 mugshot
He is named as a suspect later in the afternoon and the brothers are seen entering grand jury offices at the courthouse.
Smollett is criminally charged with filing a false police report, a Class 4 felony which carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
Smollett hands himself in to police at 5am. He is later charged with filing a false police report and posts $10,000 – ten percent of his $100,000 bond – and is released from jail.
The actor then releases a statement through his attorneys insisting he is innocent and claiming the prosecutors’ office ‘trampled’ on his presumption of innocence.