Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, uttered a famous phrase while he was former president Barack Obama's White House chief of staff. "Never let a tragedy go to waste," he said, which was quickly embraced by Democrats and has become a sort of motto for the party.
Now, Emanuel is back in the news, supposedly furious about what actor Jussie Smollett perpetrated in his city. Smollett, an actor, claimed he was attacked by two white men who yelled "This is MAGA country," a reference to President Trump's campaign slogan, "Make Amerca Great Again."
The allegations, though, imploded. Eventually, Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on 16 charges, including making false statements to police. All that was wiped away this week by a Chicago prosecutor, who suddenly announced she was dropping all charges and sealing the case.
In the end, there's clearly just one person to blame for the whole debacle. No, not the man who allegedly made up the whole story — but the President of the United States!
"Let me be clear about something. The only reason Jussie Smollett thought he could take advantage of a hoax about a hate crime is because of the environment, the toxic environment that Donald Trump created," Emanuel told a group of reporters on Thursday.
"This is a president who drew a moral equivalency between people who are trying to perpetuate bigotry and those who are trying to fight bigotry."
Emanuel told Trump to stay out of Chicago's affairs. "My recommendation is the president go to Opening Day baseball, sit on the sidelines and stay out of this," he said.
Trump on Thursday said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice will both investigate the "outrageous" decision by Chicago prosecutors to drop all charges in the Jussie Smollett "hate hoax" case.
"FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump made the vow shortly after Chicago’s WLS-TV reported that the FBI has launched an investigation into the decision to drop the 16-count indictment against the "Empire" TV show actor.
Smollett was indicted by a grand jury in Chicago on 16 felony counts after he allegedly lied to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime. The actor said two men attacked him at 2 p.m. when he was walking home from a sandwich shop, poured what he believed to be bleach on him, and placed a rope around his neck.
Soon after Smollett made his initial allegations, he added another element, saying his alleged attackers yelled, "This is MAGA country."
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Tuesday announced that her office was dropping the case. Smollett was allowed to walk free after forfeiting his $10,000 bail and performing 16 hours of community service, to which Foxx said, "I believe this is a just outcome based on the circumstances."
Smollett later declared that the state's attorney's decision exonerated him.
"I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have been truthful and consistent on every level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’m accused of. This has been an incredibly difficult time. Honestly one of the worst of my entire life. But I am a man of faith and I am a man that has knowledge of my history and I would not bring my family, our lives or the movement through a fire like this, I just wouldn’t," he said.
But on that score, Emanuel thinks much more like most Americans do, saying Smollett owes Chicago the $130,000 police spent on investigating what are now widely believed to be false accusations.
"Given that he doesn’t feel any sense of contrition and remorse," Emanuel said, "my recommendation is that when he writes the check, in the memo section, he can put the words, 'I’m accountable for the hoax.'"