President Trump says 'you're welcome' to thankful UCLA players

Ball: 'I didn't exercise my best judgment' (2:00)

LiAngelo Ball takes "full responsibility" for stealing from the stores in China and apologizes for the incident. (2:00)

President Donald Trump had wondered if he'd receive thanks from the three UCLA basketball players whose release from China he helped to secure following their arrest on shoplifting charges.

He did. And he had a response on Thursday.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill stole from three stores, were arrested and surrendered their passports. Trump, who was already on an Asia trip, spoke to President Xi Jinping of China about the incident, and the players were allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, all three read prepared statements at a news conference in which it was revealed that they have been suspended from the team indefinitely. They thanked the Chinese government and police for how they were treated and United States officials for helping secure their release.

"I'd also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well," Ball said.

Riley said: "To President Trump and the United States government: Thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out."

"Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home," Hill said.

Earlier in the day, Trump had tweeted:

The players are not allowed to take part in team activities while they are suspended. Sources told ESPN on Wednesday that UCLA officials are debating the length of the ban.

Later Thursday, as he rallied House Republicans before a crucial vote on a tax overhaul, Trump talked about his efforts to release the players

Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas said Trump "personally engaged the Chinese president and it turned out the way it did,'' with the players released. He said China is known for being "extremely punitive'' with criminal suspects, adding: "This could have been a disaster for those families.''

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.