Donald Trump and John Kelly Lied About Getting UCLA's Basketball Players Out of China: Report

LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were arrested for shoplifting, in China, during a UCLA basketball team trip back in the second week of November 2017. A little over a week later they were on their way home. Donald Trump made a big to-do about how he was personally involved in this bit of diplomacy.

Then the New York Times ran with a story titled How “Trump Helped Liberate U.C.L.A. ‘Knuckleheads’ From China,” that seemed to support Trump’s point of view. 

Mr. Kelly said Mr. Trump’s intervention, as well as diplomatic efforts by State Department diplomats, led to the reduction of the charges to the equivalent of misdemeanors as well as the release of the three players to their hotel, where they were placed under temporary house arrest. It was there that Mr. Kelly talked to Chris Carlson, an associate athletic director at U.C.L.A., and to the players on the phone the next day.

ESPN has a longer breakdown of what happened in China with the UCLA team.

Here’s an excerpt:

"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." [...]

"The players were already checked into the hotel before the public discovered they were arrested," a team source said. "They also were not under house arrest. It was our decision to keep them at the hotel until the situation was resolved. The charges were dropped, they weren't reduced, and that happened two days before we heard from Gen. Kelly."

According to the article, UCLA thanked Kelly and the president because they could not be sure that the White House hadn’t been helpful in facilitating the release. A sort of cover-your-bases type of situation. But Trump and Kelly used it to praise their effectiveness as international negotiators. This makes sense when you see how well Trump has handled our opening trade talks with the international community. In case you think things are being parsed too thinly here. Let me leave this with you:

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