Andrew Brunson, the American pastor who was freed Friday after being detained in a Turkish prison for nearly two years, is scheduled to arrive in the United States around noon Saturday and head to the White House for a meeting with President Trump.
Brunson’s release had been a top priority for evangelical Christians, and Trump is celebrating the pastor’s return as a diplomatic coup for his administration. The president plans to host Brunson, 50, in the Oval Office at 2:30 p.m., before he jets to Kentucky for an evening campaign rally.
Trump tweeted on Saturday morning, “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!”
Trump insisted that he made no concessions to Turkish President Recep Erdogan to secure the release of Brunson, who had been convicted in Turkish court of having links to terrorism.
“There was NO DEAL made with Turkey for the release and return of Pastor Andrew Brunson,” Trump tweeted. “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!”
Brunson, detained on espionage and terrorism-related charges, was convicted Friday by a Turkish court, but his sentence was reduced to time served, clearing the way for his release. He was taken to a U.S. military hospital in Germany on Friday night, where he was checked by medics.
At a campaign rally Friday night in Lebanon, Ohio, Trump hailed the release of Brunson as a triumph, announcing to the roaring crowd that the pastor was “free from jail” and would be coming to Washington.
“We’ll say hello to him,” Trump said.
When Brunson landed overnight in Germany, Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, presented him an American flag. The pastor held it up to his face and kissed it.