One day after he was released from house arrest in Turkey, American pastor Andrew Brunson arrived at the White House on Saturday afternoon to meet with President Trump in the Oval Office.
Brunson flew to Germany Friday for a medical checkup at a U.S. military hospital before flying on to the U.S. On Friday, a Turkish judge ordered Brunson freed from house arrest on Friday after sentencing him to time served on terror and treason charges; on Saturday shortly after noon E.T., an aircraft carrying Brunson landed at Joint Base Andrews. The North Carolina pastor was imprisoned in October 2016 due to his alleged ties to an outlawed group as part of a crackdown on a failed coup in Turkey against President Recep Erdogan’s government. Brunson had rejected the charges against him and maintained his innocence.
Upon Brunson's arrival in the Oval Office, Trump said "from a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that's not bad."
The president then warned that "we do not pay ransom in this country, at least any longer," but added that he wants to thank President Erdogan, after noting that he was "very surprised we didn't work this out a couple of months ago."
Speaking to Brunson, Trump then said that "I just want to congratulate you because you have galvanized this country." In response, Brunson told Trump that he "especially wants to thank the administration. You really fought for us" to which Trump's response was that "if there was ever a bipartisan event, this was it."
After Trump said that he won't ask Brunson whether or not he'll go back to Turkey, the pastor responded that "We do love Turkey." The pastor then asked God to give Trump "super-natural wisdom."
Seemingly eager to bury the hatchet with Turkey, Trump said "again to President Erdogan, thank you very much. And to the people of Turkey, thank you," adding that "I am not going to blame fault."
Trump then addressed the other pressing foreign policy matter on his plate, the disappearance of WaPo reporter Khashoggi, saying that the "timing is a strict coincidence."
Addressing Saudi Arabia, which Trump earlier threatened with "severe punishment" if it was found that Saudis had killed the journalist, Trump appeared fixated on maintaining US arms deals with Riyadh, and addressing the Saudi's $110 billion "largest-order ever made," POTUS said that "if they don't buy it from us they'll buy it from somebody else" adding that if cancelled, Russia and China could swoop in.
"We'd be punishing ourselves" if the US scraps the deal with Saudi Arabia, Trump claimed, noting that "as of this moment nobody knows what happened."
He also echoed what he told CBS, noting that there are "plenty of tough things we could do" about Saudi Arabia "that would be very severe."
Trump also said that he would be calling Saudi Kin Salman of Saudi Arabia "probably tonight or tomorrow."
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Earlier, in a tweet Trump thanked Erdogan “for his help” and said he would meet Brunson Saturday afternoon in the Oval Office.
“It will be wonderful to see and meet him. He is a great Christian who has been through such a tough experience,” Trump tweeted.
Pastor Andrew Brunson, released by Turkey, will be with me in the Oval Office at 2:30 P.M. (this afternoon). It will be wonderful to see and meet him. He is a great Christian who has been through such a tough experience. I would like to thank President @RT_Erdogan for his help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2018
He also said that while there was “great appreciation” and a hope of good relations between the U.S. and Turkey, but there was “no deal” made for Brunson’s return.
There was NO DEAL made with Turkey for the release and return of Pastor Andrew Brunson. I don’t make deals for hostages. There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2018