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Report: Evidence shows Donald Trump had no involvement in release of UCLA players’ release from China

Donald Trump, LiAngelo Ball

After a detailed investigation into the UCLA Men’s Basketball shoplifting fiasco in Hangzhou, China stemming from last year, ESPN’s Arash Markazi detailed the line of events day-by-day. The article revealed LiAngelo Ball and his two other freshmen teammates had already been released and had the charges against them dropped before President Donald Trump claimed to have been involved in the matter.

According to Markazi’s line of events, he details just how Ball and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill had already received their passports back and had their return flights booked before White House chief of staff John Kelly had called the players to inform them of Trump’s involvement.

Sunday Nov. 12

Donald Trump first found out about the situation, according to The New York Times, when members of his staff saw it on CNN just before Trump’s dinner with the president of China, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Thursday. Trump would later tell reporters on Tuesday, Nov. 14, that he first heard about the situation “two days ago,” at which point he personally asked the Chinese president to look into the matter.

The White House did not respond to requests to clear up the timeline, but UCLA sources say they didn’t become aware of Trump’s involvement until Sunday when White House chief of staff John Kelly called the players to say that Trump was intervening on their behalf and that he was optimistic of a quick resolution. A Pac-12 source, who was not present for the actual call from Kelly, confirmed the UCLA sources’ description of the timeline.

“The situation was already resolved by the time we heard about Trump’s involvement,” one team source said. “That’s not to take away from the fact that he got involved, but the players already had their passports back and their flights booked to go home Tuesday night when Gen. Kelly called the players.”

LiAngelo Ball

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Trump had publicized the matter in his own Twitter account, calling the kids ungrateful and saying the three of them were lucky he had intervened, or else they could have been jailed for up to a decade.

He later went as far as to say that shoplifting could have landed them 5-10 years of jail, when in reality, according to an excerpt from Tim Bontemps and David Nakamura of The Washington Post, the athletes were highly unlikely to merit any jail time at all.

“While stealing goods worth more than 2,500 yuan ($380) is supposed to merit jail time — and stealing goods worth between 7,000 and 10,000 yuan ($1,050 and $1,510) could bring between two and three years in jail — the site says the fact the players are teenagers could reduce the severity of the punishment, as could their cooperation to try to make the situation right. Doing so could include admitting wrongdoing, as well as providing compensation for the stolen goods.”

 

Each of the players thanked Trump for his help the day after they arrived in Los Angeles, as Trump had grown impatient waiting for a broadcasted “thank you” for his intervention.

Despite this, Trump went on to call LiAngelo’s father, LaVar Ball an “ungrateful fool” after he said in a CNN interview that his family didn’t owe him anything, claiming the situation had been resolved even before Trump claimed to intervene.

According to Markazi’s in-depth report, LaVar was right all along.