US President Donald Trump hosted a dinner of evangelical leaders at the White House Monday night and told them he has delivered “just about everything” he promised on policies of religious liberty and defense of life, mentioning, however, failed efforts to force Turkey to release a detained American pastor.
“The support you’ve given me has been incredible,” Trump told the group, according to The Washington Times. “But I really don’t feel guilty because I have given you a lot back, just about everything I promised.”
The president emphasized his administration’s efforts to stop religious persecution around the globe, citing action aimed at forcing Turkey to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is standing trial on espionage and terrorism-related charges.
He and the administration say the charges are false.
After an apparent deal struck between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to secure Brunson’s release fell apart, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers it holds responsible for the cleric’s continued detention and doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey.
Accusing Trump of launching an economic attack on Turkey, Erdoğan in response has imposed tariffs on a number of US imports and urged a boycott of American electronics, leading Turks to smash iPhones and burn dollar bills.
Although a local court in İzmir transferred Brunson from pretrial detention to house arrest, several appeals by his lawyer and pressure from the US to secure his release and freedom to leave the country have failed.
“My administration has strongly spoken out against religious persecution around the world, including the persecution of Christians,” the president said.