President Donald Trump met with American pastor Andrew Brunson in the Oval Office on Saturday, one day after the North Carolina pastor was released from detention in Turkey.
Pastor Brunson was released on Friday after almost two years in detention for charges related to terrorism.
The president congratulated the pastor repeatedly and thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for facilitating the release.
“Everybody wanted this to happen. I think we can say this was bipartisan. I think if there was ever a bipartisan event, this was it,” Trump said.
Pastor Brunson thanked Trump, his administration and Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who he said visited him while he was imprisoned. Brunson’s wife, Norine, and their children also thanked Trump.
“You really fought for us,” Brunson said.
The president praised Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who he said brought Brunson’s case up frequently.
“I would say we spoke about this at least once a day,” Trump said. “We thought we had it done two months ago. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out, but I can only tell you that’s better than anybody else could have done.”
Brunson also asked to pray over the president, which Trump joked he needed “more than probably anybody in this room.” Kneeling before Trump, Brunson asked God to give the president “supernatural wisdom to lead the country.”
While speaking to media Trump also answered questions about Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist, who was alleged to have been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Trump and Pompeo said they have not yet seen or heard any tapes that would prove what happened to Khashoggi, and added that they’re going to “determine what happened first” before considering any action.
Brunson, a North Carolina native, was one of two dozen Americans charged with helping Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric whom the government blames for planning a failed coup in 2016. Brunson, who had lived Turkey for more than two decades, has denied the charges.