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Trump: Should Have Left 3 US Basketball Players in Chinese Jail

UCLA basketball player Cody Riley, left, reads his statement as he is joined by teammates LiAngelo Ball, center, and Jalen Hill during a news conference at UCLA, Nov. 15, 2017, in Los Angeles.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he should have left three college basketball players accused of shoplifting in China in jail there after the father of one of them said Trump played little role in their return to the United States.

The three players with the University of California at Los Angeles thanked Trump last week for his role in easing their release by personally asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene when the two leaders met earlier this month in Beijing.

UCLA's athletic director said the players - LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill - shoplifted items, including expensive sunglasses, from three stores in Hangzhou, where the UCLA team was staying before playing a game against another U.S. school, Georgia Tech, in Shanghai.

But LaVar Ball, LiAngelo's father, dismissed Trump's role in freeing the three, who were confined to a hotel even as their teammates returned to the United States.

"Who?" the elder Ball said when asked about Trump's involvement. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out." Ball earlier had said people familiar with the shoplifting charges had tried "to make a big deal out of nothing."

Trump, in a Twitter remark Sunday, said, "Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!"

All three players have been suspended indefinitely from the UCLA team.