"I should have left them in jail!" President Donald Trump said, responding to remarks by Lavar Ball, a media personality and the father of one of the three UCLA basketball players arrested in China on suspicion of shoplifting, that the president had little to do with the release of the students.
"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," Trump tweeted Sunday. "I should have left them in jail!"
Later, the President tweeted again: "Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!"
When ESPN asked Ball about Trump's role in the release of his son, he asked, "Who?" and added, "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
Responses to Trump's tweets are pouring in.
"The President of the United States says he would leave you in a foreign jail if he's mad at your dad," wrote Matt Walsh of The Blaze on Twitter. Then he again wrote, "If Obama ever said anything even remotely close to this, the Right would scream about it for the next 3 decades."
Bill Kristol, editor at large at Weekly Standard, mocked Trump, writing, "Trump: If Americans won't express fulsome gratitude to me personally, I don't see why I should bother doing what a president should do."
"Trump's failure to distinguish between himself and the office he holds is almost the definition of not understanding a constitutional republic," he added.
Eric Erickson, who writes for Resurgent, tweeted, "Advice I give my children: do what's right and never expect thanks. You do it because it is right, not to get in good with others."
Fox News host Todd Starnes thought Trump's tweet was presidential, however, writing, "Thank you, @realDonaldTrump, for not leaving American citizens behind in China -- even if they are no-account criminals. #presidential."
The three players have since been suspended indefinitely from the team.
"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," Ball told ESPN. "I'm happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.' I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that's a different thing.
"Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things, and they get stuck on them too long. That's not me. I handle what's going on and then we go from there."