Mickelson, however, is disputing Trump’s claim of support. On Thursday, his attorney told ESPN’s Bob Harig that Mickelson “had nothing to do with this” and had not written or telephoned anyone on Walters’s behalf.
“The press release referencing Phil Mickelson is erroneous,” Glenn Cohen, Mickelson’s attorney, told Harig. “The reason we are upset is because it’s untrue.”
There’s a bit of backstory to unpack here. In charging Walters and Thomas Davis, the former chairman of Dean Foods, over an insider-trading scheme in 2016, federal prosecutors alleged that Walters used the misbegotten information about the company’s finances to help enrich Mickelson, a longtime friend who owed Walters money for sports-betting losses. Prosecutors said Mickelson bought shares of Dean Foods one day after Walters told him the company planned to spin off one of its subsidiaries, and about a week later Dean Food’s stock price had jumped 40 percent, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors did not charge Mickelson with a crime nor accuse him of one. However, they named him as a “relief defendant,” meaning the Securities and Exchange Commission wanted him to return his $931,000 in profit from the stock trades, which he did, saying he was “disappointed to have been a part of that whole thing.”
Before Walters’s sentencing in 2017, more than 100 of his friends submitted letters of support to U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, among them tennis legend Andre Agassi, former U.S. Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid and professional golfers including Jacobsen and Jim Colbert, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported at the time. Castel was unswayed, sentencing Walters to five years in federal prison. (Walters was released from a minimum-security prison in May to serve out the remainder of his incarceration at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.)
Walters has repaid more than $44 million in fines, forfeitures and restitution, Trump’s announcement said.