The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating whether Jussie Smollett played a role in the threatening letter that was sent to the “Empire” studio on Jan. 22, seven days before the actor reported an assault by two individuals in his Chicago neighborhood, two federal officials told ABC News on Tuesday.
The USPIS confirmed to TheWrap that the agency was assisting the FBI in investigating the letter, but declined to comment any further on the nature of the investigation — including whether it involves any role Smollett might have played — except to say that the agency is on call to assist the FBI.
The FBI, which is leading the investigation, declined to comment. Representatives for Smollett did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on this story.
According to CNN, Chicago police said that a threatening letter addressed to Smollett was received on Jan. 22 at Chicago’s Cinespace Studios, where “Empire” is filmed. The envelope, which included “MAGA” in red letters, contained a white powder that authorities later determined to be aspirin.
According to a Monday report by ABC News, law enforcement was investigating the two brothers who were questioned last week by police — Ola and Abel Osundairo — who had said that Smollett was upset the letter didn’t get enough attention.
Smollett was hospitalized on Jan. 29, and reported to police that he was assaulted near his Chicago home by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” According to a police statement after the incident, the actor said he was battered “about the face,” had bleach poured on him and had a rope wrapped around his neck.
A CNN report on Saturday, citing two unnamed law enforcement sources, said investigators believe Smollett may have paid the two men — Nigerian brothers with a professional connection to Smollett — to orchestrate the attack. According to the report, the men were released after agreeing to cooperate with investigators.
Smollett’s lawyers have denied that the reported attack was a hoax, saying “anyone claiming otherwise is lying.” On Monday, representatives for the “Empire” star said that he had “no plans” to meet with Chicago police for further questioning.