Utah Senator Orrin Hatch told President Donald Trump on Saturday he deserved the credit for bringing home 26-year-old Josh Holt, who had been held in a Venezuelan prison for nearly two years.
In an emotional speech to the President in the Oval Office, Hatch told Trump: ‘You know, I was the one guy who really supported you 100 per cent, and I do now’.
In his breathless praise, he said Holt’s repatriation showed why Trump had the support of his administration.
‘This wouldn’t have happened without you,’ he said.
Senator Orrin Hatch (sitting right of Trump) praised the President profusely for his role in helping bring Venezuelan prisoner Josh Holt home to the US
Hatch (pictured) has been a devout supporter of Trump since he came into office
‘We just want you to know that when you look over your tenure in the Presidency, this is one of the many great things you’re doing.
‘To know we can rely on you, count on you, talk to you and meet with you – these are all very important things.
‘We love you boy and we want to support you any way we can.’
Hatch also praised fellow Senator Bob Corker and his aide, Caleb McCarry, for their part in repatriating Holt.
‘We have good people working with us, and the folks in this delegation all very sincerely wanted to get Josh out of there,’ he said.
‘And the parents are just as good a people as I’ve ever met in my life.’
Turning to Josh, the Republican senator cracked a smile and said: ‘You’d better really live a good life, is all I can say’.
Hatch, 84, said repatriating the 26-year-old ‘wouldn’t have been possible without [Trump]’
Holt (left) has been locked up on weapons charges since June 2016 and was brought home on Saturday
Holt was arrested on weapons charges nearly two years ago, after going to Venezuela in 2016 to marry a woman he met online while looking for Spanish-speaking Mormons to help him learn the language.
Holt’s Venezuelan wife, Thamara, was arrested alongside him, but was also freed on Saturday and brought to the US with her daughter. Thamara was told in the Oval Office the US was now ‘her country’.
Authorities arrested him on June 30, 2016, and accused him of stockpiling an assault rifle and grenades, suggesting his case was linked to other unspecified U.S. attempts to undermine Maduro’s rule amid deep economic and political turbulence.
His wife also was jailed on allegations of being Holt’s accomplice.
Hatch said the President had been approachable throughout the lengthy process it took to get Holt home
Holt, his wife (sitting left of Holt) and her daughter were all invited to the Oval Office on Saturday night, as were Holt’s parents
They had been held in a notorious Caracas prison run by the secret police that’s also home to dozens of Maduro’s top opponents who have been jailed during the past few years of political unrest in the country.
Their trial was set to begin this month after repeated delays that led the Trump administration to question the motives for his detention, although until Trump’s tweet Saturday, the U.S. had stopped short of publicly calling Holt a ‘hostage.’
Secret back channel talks about Holt between Caleb McCarry and a close ally of the Venezuelan President had been ongoing for months before Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, on Friday, and secured his release.