President Trump has personally intervened on behalf of the three UCLA basketball players ensnared in an international shoplifting scandal, asking his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to help settle the case, a top White House spokesman said Monday.
Trump spoke with Xi during a visit to Beijing last week that came shortly after the three Bruins freshmen had been questioned in connection with the theft of designer sunglasses from a high-end shopping mall next to the hotel in Hangzhou, China, where the UCLA team was staying in advance of the Pac-12 China game against Georgia Tech.
The fact that Trump raised the arrests with Xi was first reported by the Washington Post.
LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill have remained at that hotel awaiting resolution of their case while their Bruins teammates returned to Los Angeles after defeating the Yellow Jackets, 63-60, in Shanghai.
ESPN has reported, citing anonymous sources, that authorities have surveillance footage of thefts from three stores inside the mall adjacent to the team hotel in Hangzhou.
Xi assured Trump that he would look into the matter and that the players would be treated fairly, a U.S. official told the Post. The newspaper also reported that Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has been in touch with the families of the players and spoken with UCLA coach Steve Alford. The U.S. official who spoke with the Post also indicated that charges against the players have been reduced and that the case is proceeding toward a resolution.
It remained unclear if, or when, the players would be allowed to return to the United States. UCLA will play its home opener against Central Arkansas on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.