WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday he’s weighing pardons for thousands of people who were “treated unfairly,” including the late Muhammad Ali, although the boxer’s lawyer noted that clemency was not needed because the courts already threw out his conviction.
After exercising his pardon power in six cases, Trump also invited the National Football League and other professional athletes who took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice to offer recommendations for clemency.
“The power to pardon is a beautiful thing,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn as he prepared to depart for the Group of Seven summit in Quebec. “You’ve got to get it right. You’ve got to get the right people. I’m looking at Muhammed Ali.”
Though Trump again condemned NFL and other athletes who kneel or stay in the locker room in protests of unfair justice, he floated the idea of requesting them to send him names of people who they think didn’t get a fair shake from police or the courts.
“I’m going to ask all of those people to recommend to me — because that’s why they’re protesting — people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system,” Trump said.
Ron Tweel, an attorney for Ali, who died in 2016, said the Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction of draft evasion in a 1971 unanimous ruling, finding that the Justice Department improperly told the draft board that Ali was not motivated by his Muslim religious beliefs.
“We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary,” Tweel said in a statement. “There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed.”
The NFL Players Association did not immediately respond to a query.
“There will be more pardons,” said Trump, who has issued six pardons or grants of clemency, most recently on Wednesday commuting the life sentence of drug offender Alice Marie Johnson a week after Kim Kardashian West pleaded her case in an Oval Office meeting.
“We have 3,000 names,” Trump said of his committee, which he said is reviewing them for pardons for unfair treatment or whose prison sentences are too long.
“This is a group of 3,000 that we’ve assembled, and I would get more thrill out of pardoning people that nobody knows, like Alice yesterday,” Trump said.
Trump’s new focus on drug offenders such as Johnson follows former President Barack Obama’s decision to pardon or commute prison terms for individuals sentenced under harsh drug laws that were rescinded. Obama issued 212 pardons and granted 1,715 acts of clemency.
Trump again repeated his claim he has unlimited pardoning power, but said, “No, I’m not above the law. I’d never want anybody to be above the law.”
Trump also said it is too early to talk about pardoning his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for conspiracy to launder money, failing to file accurate foreign agent registration statements and obstruction of justice.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Trump said. “It’s far too early to be thinking about that.”