President Donald Trump wants to pardon boxing icon Muhammad Ali two years after he died at 74.
The problem? Ali, who was also an activist and philanthropist, has no criminal record to pardon.
What Trump might intend to recall is Ali’s conviction for evading the Vietnam War draft. But Ali, a conscientious objector, had his conviction reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court four years later. Ali regained his world heavyweight title in 1974.
Trump apparently seems to have forgotten that Ali’s record is unsullied.
“He wasn’t very popular then, he certainly is, his memory is very popular now,” he said Friday before the G-7 summit, according to CNN.
Ali was an Olympic gold medalist in 1970 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964, standing tall as an American icon. The conviction cost him more than three prime years of his career, but he returned to the ring triumphantly.
Ironically, the pardon would come after Trump has spent months railing against other black athletes using their platforms for protest: The NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem. The football league adopted a new policy preventing players from kneeling on the field after pressure from Trump.
Trump, like Ali, dodged the Vietnam War — a battle he famously compared to avoiding sexually transmitted diseases — but did so through legal means. He avoided it with five deferments — four times because of college, once for medical reasons.
He told New York Times in 2016 that this was due to bone spurs in his heels. “I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels,” Trump said, though he did not provide the letter or remember the name of the doctor. Heel spurs did not appear on his record of health in December 2015.
Trump also said he strongly opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
“I thought it was ridiculous,” he told the Times. “I thought it was another deal where politicians got us into a war where we shouldn’t have been in. And I felt that very strongly from Day 1.”
Trump has offered other controversial commentary about Vietnam.
Notably, Trump has also said that John McCain, former presidential nominee and senator who was a prisoner of war during Vietnam, was “not a war hero,” because,“I like people who weren’t captured.”
Ali’s attorney rebuffed the offer of the pardon.
“We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary,” said Ron Tweel in a statement on Friday. “The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision in 1971. There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed.”
Trump appears to be on a pardoning spree. In the past week he has pardoned right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother who was sentenced to life for a non-violent drug crime and was championed by Kim Kardashian West. He called pardoning power “a beautiful thing,” and may be considering as many as 3,000 pardons, Fox News reports.
He also tweeted about his "absolute right" to pardon himself for potential charges in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into his campaign's suspected Russian collusion.
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