President Trump welcomed American pastor Andrew Brunson to the Oval Office on Saturday, celebrating his release from nearly two years of confinement in Turkey that had sparked a diplomatic row with a key ally and outcry from US evangelical groups, the AP reports. 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 lead his family in prayer for the president. "You really fought for us," he told Trump, who responded: "From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that's not bad."
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 said the US greatly appreciated Brunson's release and said the move "will lead to good, perhaps great, relations" between the US and fellow NATO ally Turkey; he added that the White House would "take a look" at current sanctions against two Turkish officials. 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."
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