While President Donald Trump has maintained that no deal was made to arrange for the release of American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest in Turkey, he reportedly asked officials to draw up plans to remove diplomats from the country in response to Brunson’s continued detention, ABC News reported Sunday.
According to senior administration and State Department officials who spoke with ABC, the plan was set to be implemented over a 60-day period. They planned to start with the removal of top diplomats and work their way down the chain of command until all personnel were removed, ABC reported.
The incremental removal was designed to place gradual pressure on Turkish officials over Brunson’s continued captivity. The plan was going to be more seriously considered if Turkish officials did not release Brunson after his recent hearing.
Brunson was released and returned to the U.S. over the weekend. He met with Trump in the Oval Office on Saturday, when Trump doubled down on his denials that any deal with struck with foreign officials, claiming the U.S. “does not pay ransom.”