Trump touts Brunson release, praises Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul at Kentucky rally
(CNN) — President Donald Trump touted the release of pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison during a rally in Richmond, Kentucky, on Saturday, calling it “another tremendous victory for the American people” and thanking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“He was terrific, they all worked together … that one wasn’t easy. And we don’t pay ransom,” Trump said. “We’ll probably now really establish a terrific relationship with Turkey.”
At the rally, which was held to campaign for Republican Rep. Andy Barr, Trump also celebrated the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last week and touched on familiar themes from previous rallies, including illegal immigration, health care, his proposed US Space Force, trade with China and Democrats as a socialist threat.
Trump also praised Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul for their handling of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.
“Never has a man been treated so badly,” Trump said at the event, which began just after 7:15 p.m., ET, at Eastern Kentucky University’s Alumni Coliseum, calling Kavanaugh a “great, great gentleman.”
“We stuck with him all the way, because we knew the facts,” Trump said. “And Rand Paul and Mitch, they stuck with him, no doubts about it. What the crazy radical Democrats did to Justice Kavanaugh was a national disgrace.”
McConnell was spotted by reporters joining Trump in the President’s limousine to ride over to the rally after greeting him on the tarmac. The Senate majority leader spoke briefly on stage, congratulating Trump on the confirmation of 84 federal judges in this Congress.
“That’s already a record,” McConnell said. “Keep sending them our way and we’ll keep confirming them and change the court system forever!”
Trump lauded McConnell, who he has criticized in the past for failing to deliver on repealing Obamacare.
“Not everybody knows that Mitch is a great guy,” Trump said, later adding, “I have a feeling that Mitch McConnell in two years is going to do very good, very good. You know he goes down as the greatest leader, in my opinion, in history.”
Paul also spoke briefly during the rally, praising Trump support of his idea to allow association health plans, which let small businesses and the self-employed band together based on their industry or location and buy health insurance.
“I went to him with an idea on health care,” Paul said. “You know what the President said? ‘Make it so,’ and he did it.”
“That was Rand’s initial idea, and it’s doing really well,” Trump said. “Inexpensive, and terrific.”
Barr also spoke at the rally, voicing his support for Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border. Trump praised Barr on Twitter before the rally for supporting the Republican platform.
“Heading to the Great State of Kentucky – Big Rally for Congressman Andy Barr – Fantastic guy, need his vote for MAGA!” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon. “Strong on Crime, Tax Cuts, Military, Vets & 2nd A. His opponent will NEVER vote for us, only for Pelosi. Andy has my Strongest Endorsement!!! See you in Kentucky.”
The rally in the Bluegrass State was Trump’s fourth this week. During the rally, the Trump campaign announced three more campaign events next week, in Montana, Arizona and Nevada.
Trump did not address controversy surrounding the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish authorities allegedly have audio and visual evidence of Khashoggi’s death, CNN reported Friday, but have not shared them with the United States, a fellow NATO ally.
Trump said an the Oval Office press conference Saturday that the timing of Brunson’s release from Turkey was a “strict coincidence.”