US pas­tor freed from Turkey prays with Trump in Oval Of­fice

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - WEATHER - By Dar­lene Superville and Zeke Miller

WASH­ING­TON >> Freed Amer­i­can pas­tor An­drew Brun­son fell to one knee in the Oval Of­fice and placed his hand on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s shoul­der in prayer on Satur­day, ask­ing God to pro­vide the pres­i­dent “su­per­nat­u­ral wis­dom to ac­com­plish all the plans you have for this coun­try and for him.”

Trump wel­comed Brun­son to the White House to cel­e­brate his re­lease from nearly two years of con­fine­ment in Turkey, which had sparked a diplo­matic row with a key ally and out­cry from U.S. evan­gel­i­cal groups.

Brun­son re­turned to the U.S. aboard a mil­i­tary jet shortly be­fore meet­ing the pres­i­dent. He was im­pris­oned for nearly two years af­ter be­ing de­tained in Oc­to­ber 2016, for­mally ar­rested that De­cem­ber and placed un­der house ar­rest on July 25 for health rea­sons.

“From a Turk­ish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad,” Trump said.

Brun­son’s home­com­ing amounts to a diplo­matic — and pos­si­bly po­lit­i­cal — win for Trump and his evan­gel­i­cal base. Com­ing on the heels of the con­fir­ma­tion of a con­ser­va­tive jus­tice to the Supreme Court, Brun­son’s re­turn is likely to leave evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians feel­ing good about the pres­i­dent and mo­ti­vated get to the polls in the Nov. 6 midterm elec­tions.

Brun­son ap­peared to be in good health and good spir­its. When he asked Trump if he could pray for him, the pres­i­dent replied, “Well, I need it prob­a­bly more than any­one ese in this room, so that would be very nice, thank you.”

Brun­son left his chair be­side Trump, kneeled and placed a hand on the pres­i­dent’s shoul­der. As Trump bowed his head, Brun­son asked God to “give him su­per­nat­u­ral wis­dom to ac­com­plish all the plans you have for this coun­try and for him. I ask that you give him wis­dom in how to lead this coun­try into right­eous­ness.”

He con­tin­ued: “I ask that you give him per­se­ver­ance, and en­durance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you to pro­tect him from slan­der from en­e­mies, from those who would un­der­mine. I ask that you make him a great bless­ing to this coun­try. Fill him with your wis­dom and strength and per­se­ver­ance. And we bless him. May he be a great bless­ing to our coun­try. In Je­sus’ name, we bless you. Amen.”

Brun­son, orig­i­nally from Black Moun­tain, North Carolina, had lived in Turkey with his fam­ily for more than two decades and led a small con­gre­ga­tion in the Izmir Res­ur­rec­tion Church. He was ac­cused of com­mit­ting crimes on be­half of Kur­dish mil­i­tants who have been fight­ing the Turk­ish state for decades and to aid a Penn­syl­va­nia-based Mus­lim cleric, Fethul­lah Gulen, ac­cused by Turkey of en­gi­neer­ing the failed coup. He faced up to 35 years in jail if con­victed of all the charges against him.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials cast Brun­son’s re­lease as vin­di­ca­tion of Trump’s hard­nosed ne­go­ti­at­ing stance, say­ing Turkey tried to set terms for Brun­son’s re­lease but that Trump was in­sis­tent on Brun­son’s re­lease without con­di­tions. Trump main­tained there was no deal for Brun­son’s free­dom, but the pres­i­dent dan­gled the prospect of bet­ter re­la­tions be­tween the U.S. and its NATO ally.

“We do not pay ran­som in this coun­try,” Trump said.

Where pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions kept ne­go­ti­a­tions over U.S. pris­on­ers held abroad close to the vest, Trump has el­e­vated them to causes célèbres, strik­ing a tough line with al­lies and foes alike.

Trump thanked Turkey’s pres­i­dent, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who had re­sisted the de­mands of Trump and other high-level U.S. of­fi­cials for Brun­son’s re­lease. Er­do­gan had in­sisted that his coun­try’s courts are in­de­pen­dent, though he pre­vi­ously had sug­gested a pos­si­ble swap for Brun­son.

JACQUELYN MARTINM- THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump prays with Amer­i­can pas­tor An­drew Brun­son in the Oval Of­fice of the White House, Satur­day, Oct. 13, in Wash­ing­ton. Brun­son re­turned to the U.S. around mid­day af­ter he was freed Fri­day, from nearly two years of de­ten­tion in Turkey.

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