Pastor prays with Trump after release from Turkey

Andrew Brunson prays with Donald Trump

American pastor Andrew Brunson thanked President Trump for the administration’s work to free him from a Turkish prison during an Oval Office news conference Saturday afternoon, a few hours after he arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, DC.

The President introduced Brunson and praised his resilience throughout the two years he spent in jail.

“I just want to congratulate you because you have galvanized this country,” Trump said. “There’s so much interest, and it’s your faith, it’s your strength, what you’ve done, gone through.”

Trump also thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for facilitating Brunson’s return.

“I do want to thank President Erdogan for making this possible,” Trump said. “It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy for him.”

After introducing his family, Brunson thanked Trump for working to negotiate his release “from the time you took office.”

“We especially want to thank the administration, they really fought for us, unusually so,” Brunson said, addressing the President. “From the time you took office, I know that you’ve been engaged.”

Brunson also thanked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, and Sens. Thom Thillis of North Carolina, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma.

“We’re so grateful to so many people in Congress who stood with us and who prayed for us and fought for us, so we want to thank you,” Brunson said.

Brunson then prayed aloud for the President, asking that Trump be blessed with “supernatural wisdom” and “courage to stand for truth,” and that he be protected “from slander from enemies and those who would undermine him.”

Brunson’s wife Norine then prayed aloud for the President, asking that he receive “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.”

“Thank you very much. Can I ask you one question?” Trump asked her after the blessing. “Who did you vote for?”

The group laughed, and the pastor assured Trump that he sent in an absentee ballot from Turkey voting for him.

“I knew the answer, I would never do that to myself — that could be too tough,” Trump said, before congratulating the family and expressing hope for an improved relationship with Turkey due to Brunson’s release.

“We’ve had a very harsh relationship over the past number of months because of what was happening,” Trump said. “This is a tremendous step toward having the kind of relationship with Turkey, which can be a great relationship, that I know we’re going to have.”

The President tweeted Saturday that Brunson would be joining him in the Oval Office after his return, adding there was “NO DEAL made with Turkey” for his release.