Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical Christian preacher, was caught up in a Turkish crackdown two years ago following a failed coup attempt, and has been detained ever since, charged with associating with terrorists and harboring coup plotters. U.S. officials have pushed for his release, and last week, Turkey’s government agreed to a deal.
The day after the North Carolinian’s release, Brunson joined Donald Trump in the Oval Office, where the president welcomed him home. By any fair measure, it’s tough to mess up an event like this: a president is expected to congratulate the freed prisoner, commend his family, and say a few kind words.
But on Saturday, Donald Trump’s thoughts turned to … Donald Trump.
Early on at the White House event, the president insisted that his handling of Brunson’s ordeal was superior to what others in his job could’ve achieved. “We thought we had it done two months ago,” Trump said of Brunson’s release. “Sometimes it doesn’t always work out, but that’s – I can only tell you that’s better than anybody else could have done.”
Soon after, the pastor prayed with Trump, who then asked a question.
After Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was detained in Turkey for more than two years, finished a prayer in the Oval Office for the president whose administration had brought him home, Donald Trump was curious about just one thing.
“Can I ask you one question,” Trump asked. “Who did you vote for?”
Amid the awkward, forced laughter that ensued, Trump turned to his Cabinet and added in a faux whisper, “I knew the answer.”
Watching the clip, I think Trump directed the question at Brunson’s wife, which would only make sense given the fact that the pastor was literally incarcerated in a Turkish prison on Election Day 2016.
But either way, what exactly was it about that moment that led the president to think, “You know, this seems like a good time to ask whether the Brunson family supported my political candidacy”? Why was that an important detail to bring up to the roomful of people?
Hours later, the president referenced the developments while patting himself on the back during a campaign rally.
Mr. Trump carried the release of Mr. Brunson with him to Kentucky hours after the meeting, celebrating it almost as soon as he took the stage.
“He is on American soil,” he told cheering supporters. “It wasn’t easy. That one wasn’t easy. And we don’t pay ransom.”
Trump sees a bit too much of what he does through a self-glorifying lens.