President Donald Trump welcomed American citizen Josh Holt, who was released Saturday morning from prison in Venezuela after two years, to the Oval Office this evening.
“I just want to welcome you to the Oval Office, welcome you to the White House,” Trump said. “You’ve got through a lot. More than most people could endure.”
“They came back from a very tough ordeal in a Venezuelan prison almost two years, Josh, and, you know, amazing that you were able to take it,” Trump said.
Holt, who had changed from his blue jeans into a navy blue suit and tie for the White House visit, looked calm and at ease sitting next to Trump. On one gold couch in the Oval Office sat Holt’s family, and on the other couch sat Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in a row. State Department officials lined the back wall of the Oval Office.
“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude,” Holt said.
“They were a very, very difficult two years,” he continued. “Not really the great vacation that I was looking for. But we’re still together, starting off a marriage rough, but now we’ll be together. I’m just so grateful for what you guys have done and for thinking about me and caring about me, just a normal person. It really touches me, and thank you.”
“You’ve been very brave,” Trump replied.
Holt had traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Thamara Caleño, whom he met on an online Mormon dating site. Holt planned to return to the United States with his new wife and two stepchildren, but they never made it back. Venezuelan police raided their apartment and arrested them on charges of terrorism, espionage and illegal possession of weapons. They never received a trial, and maintained their innocence.
Corker, who led efforts to get Holt and his wife released, traveled to Venezuela to meet with President Nicolás Maduro and said it was “quite an experience.”
“We could almost write a book about the past 48 hours,” Corker said.
Trump shook hands with Corker’s staffer, who played an instrumental role in setting up communications for Holt’s release.
Trump touted the number of prisoners his administration has released and went on to say that he’s specifically looking at trying to free Pastor Andrew Bruson, currently imprisoned in Turkey.
“Pastor Brunson, I hope you can hear us, we’ll be helping you,” Trump said.
Trump asked everyone sitting with him in the Oval Office to speak about Holt’s release but was surprised — and amused — when Lee turned to Holt’s daughter to address her in Spanish.
“You understood that beautifully,” Trump said to Holt’s Venezuelan daughter. “Good job.”
At the end of the spray, Trump said that he wanted to make comments on North Korea.
Trump revealed that there are currently meetings going on about the summit, “as we speak, in a certain location which I won’t name but you’d like the location, it’s not so far away from here.”