A day after his release from a Turkish prison, Pastor Andrew Brunson met with President Donald Trump in the White House on Oct. 13. Brunson thanked the President before kneeling in prayer for him.
Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, had been charged with unsubstantiated terrorism offenses by Turkey and jailed since 2016.
Trump has repeatedly called for the release of Brunson, calling the detainment a “total disgrace.” Trump had called for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to free him and added a doubling of duties on aluminum and steel imported from Turkey, helping drive the lira currency down against the dollar.
Brunson said Turkish authorities wanted 35 years in prison for him. Despite the experience, Brunson said he still loves Turkey and its people.
At the meeting, Brunson was accompanied by his family, who had incessantly contacted the administration, Trump said, to urge efforts for Brunson’s release.
“We especially want to thank the administration,” Brunson said. “You really fought for us—unusually so. From the time you took office, I knew you’ve been engaged.”
In addition to Trump, Brunson thanked State Secretary Michael Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and several Senators.
Brunson said he and his wife often pray for Trump. He asked if he could do so on the spot and Trump agreed.
“I need it probably more than anybody in this room,” the President said, prompting some laughs.
The pastor prayed for “supernatural wisdom” for Trump, as well as “perseverance, endurance, and courage to stand for truth.”
Brunson lived in Turkey for more than two decades. He was arrested in October 2016 and accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in 2016 and of having links to terrorist organizations. He denied all the accusations.
Trump said Brunson’s detention strained the U.S.-Turkey relationship, a situation he now expects to change.
“I think this will be a big step in our relationship,” he said. He also repeatedly thanked Erdogan for making Brunson’s release possible.
Erdogan has insisted the Turkish judiciary independently made the decision to release Brunson.
“I hope that the United States and Turkey will continue their cooperation as the allies that they are, and fight together against terrorist groups,” Erdogan stated in an Oct. 13 tweet.
Reuters contributed to this report