Duvar EnglishForeign leaders ask me to talk to Erdoğan because he only listens to me, Trump says
U.S. President Donald Trump told Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, who was arrested in Turkey in 2016 on espionage and terrorism charges, that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan "was very good" despite the pastor's ordeal.
During the first night of the Republican National Convention, Trump hosted a roundtable with six former prisoners, who are among more than a dozen religious or other people whose release the Trump administration helped broker.
Brunson was among them alongside Michael White, Sam Goodwin, Joshua and Tamara Holt, and Pastor Bryan Nerran.
“We have six incredible people who were held hostage by various countries, and I am very pleased to let everyone know that we brought back over 50 hostages from 22 different countries, we worked very hard on it,” Trump said in before turning to Brunson.
“We had to get you back,” he continued. “I have to say, to me, President Erdoğan was very good. I know they had you scheduled for a long time and you were a very innocent person, and he ultimately, after we had a few conversations, agreed.”
Trump's remarks to Brunson prompted surprise since his arrest was deemed a political pawn by U.S. authorities.
I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018
Brunson worked in Turkey for 23 years as the pastor of the Resurrection Church. He was detained for an alleged connection to a failed coup against Erdoğan in 2016, though he denied any wrongdoing.
The White House levied tariffs and upped political pressure on the Erdoğan government, and the pastor was ultimately released in 2018 after the Trump administration personally raised the case with Erdoğan.
My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2018
But despite Brunson’s detention, in the brief segment, Trump doubled down on his praise for the Turkish strongman, a regular theme of his administration.
Throughout his time in office, Trump has called Erdoğan a “great ally,” a “strong man” and said he’s a “big fan” of the man despite criticism over the Turkish leader’s efforts to silence critics.
Brunson said he was grateful to the Trump administration for its efforts to bring him home, telling the president he thought “if you hadn’t done that, I think I would still be in Turkey.”
“I was held in Turkey for two years, and you took unprecedented steps actually to secure my release, and your administration really fought for me,” the pastor said. “I’m really grateful.”Erdoğan used Trump's foreign policy inexperience to launch offensive in northern Syria: US sources