Trump mulls Ali pardon; lawyer: ‘Unnecessary’

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President Donald Trump said Friday he may grant a pardon to the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who doesn’t seem to need one.

Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Friday for a meeting in Canada with U.S. allies that he’s looking at “thousands of names” of people who could be granted clemency.

Ali is one name on this list, Trump said, though it was not immediately clear why Ali would need a pardon because he has no criminal record. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction for resisting the draft in 1971.

“I’m thinking about somebody that you all know very well. And he went through a lot. And he wasn’t very popular then,” Trump said. “He certainly, his memory is very popular now.”

Ali’s attorney, Ron Tweel, responded to the President’s gesture in a statement Friday.

“We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary,” the statement said. “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.”

Ali was born Cassius Clay, though he changed his name after converting to Islam in the 1960s. He refused to serve in the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs, declaring himself a conscientious objector, and saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong.”

His decision resulted in a draft-evasion conviction, and he was stripped of his heavyweight boxing crown in 1967.

Ali’s legal fight ended in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, reversing his conviction on a technicality. And in January 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned those who broke Selective Service laws in the Vietnam era.

Ali regained the boxing title in 1974. He died in 2016.

Trump has already granted a posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson — convicted of violating a law that made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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