Pas­tor freed from Tur­key vis­its Trump

Boston Herald - - NEWS -

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.”

AP PHOTO

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.

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