WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he was considering pardoning the late boxing legend Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world who was jailed after having a relationship with a white woman.
Johnson was arrested in 1912 on the grounds that his relationship with Lucille Cameron, a white prostitute who later became his wife, violated the Mann Act against “transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes.” He died in 1946.
“Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson,” Trump said in a tweet, referring to the actor who played the underdog boxer Rocky Balboa in the 1976 film “Rocky.”
“His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!” Trump added.
Trump’s April 13 pardon of former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of perjury in 2007, was criticized by Democrats who argued the decision signalled that obstruction of justice would be rewarded by the president.
Trump floated the possible pardon for Johnson hours after issuing a series of tweets criticizing the New York Times for a story suggesting his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, might cooperate with federal authorities against the president.
“Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if ... it means lying or making up stories,” Trump said. “Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that.”
The newspaper said Trump’s lawyers and advisers have become resigned to the possibility Cohen could end up cooperating with federal officials who are investigating Cohen for activity that could relate, at least in part, to work he did for Trump.
The FBI on April 9 raided Cohen’s offices and home, a dramatic development in a series of probes involving close Trump associates.
U.S. prosecutors conducted a search that was partly the result of a referral by the office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating if members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt” and denied any collusion. Russia also denies meddling in the election.
Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chris Reese