Pastor freed from Turkey visits Trump
WASHINGTON — President Trump welcomed American pastor Andrew Brunson to the Oval Office yesterday, celebrating his release from nearly two years of confinement in Turkey that had sparked a diplomatic row with a key ally and outcry from U.S. evangelical groups.
Brunson, who returned to the United States aboard a military jet shortly before their meeting, appeared to be in good health and good spirits. He thanked Trump for working to secure his freedom and then led his family in prayer for the president. “You really fought for us,” he told Trump.
“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad,” Trump said.
Administration officials cast Brunson’s release as vindication of Trump’s hard-nosed negotiating stance, saying Turkey tried to set terms for Brunson’s release, but 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 celebres, 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.
The U.S. had repeatedly called for Brunson’s release
and, this year, sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports citing in part Brunson’s plight.
Trump said the U.S. greatly appreciated Brunson’s release and said the move “will lead to good, perhaps great, relations” between the U.S. and fellow NATO ally Turkey, and said the White House would “take a look” at the sanctions.
Brunson’s homecoming amounts to a diplomatic high note for Trump, who is counting on the support of evangelical Christians for Republican candidates in the Nov. 6 election. Thousands
‘From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad.’ — PRESIDENT TRUMP
of Trump’s supporters cheered Friday night at a rally in Ohio when Trump informed them that Brunson was once again a free man.
Trump asked Brunson and his family which candidate they voted for in 2016, saying he was confident they had gone for him. “I would like to say I sent in an absentee ballot from prison,” Brunson quipped, before praying that God grant Trump “supernatural wisdom.”
THANK YOU PRAYER: President Trump prays with American pastor Andrew Brunson at the White House yesterday in Washington. Brunson returned to the U.S. yesterday after he was freed Friday from nearly two years of detention in Turkey.