As he promised, President Donald Trump was on hand when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down at Joint Base Andrews early Thursday with three Americans who were being detained by North Korea.
Accompanied by first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Trump personally welcomed home Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, aka Tony Kim, in the wee hours of the morning.
The three men were jubilant to be back on American soil as Trump escorted them from their plane.
“Frankly we didn’t think this was going to happen … it’s a very important thing to all of us to be able to get these three great people out,” he told reporters on the tarmac.
The release of the Americans eliminated a major obstacle to the planned historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“I really think [Jong Un] wants to do something,” Trump told reporters, according to Fox News.
Citing a senior U.S. official there for the exchange in Pyongyang, a North Korean official told Pompeo that Kim Jong Un had granted the three Americans “amnesty,” Reuters reported.
Saying it was a “hard decision,” the official cautioned Pompeo to make sure “they do not make the same mistakes again.”
There were no family members of the three freed Americans present, but CNN noted that this is protocol, as the men had to be debriefed intelligence officials first.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said the men would next go to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland for a medical evaluation after meeting with Trump.
.@VP Pence showed me the psalm & personal thank you handwritten on a notecard by the 3 Americans freed from North Korea. We spoke at Joint Base Andrews at 4am. Our interview airs on @CBSThisMorning. pic.twitter.com/2Ii6ZYURKp
— Margaret Brennan (@margbrennan) May 10, 2018
The three men released a statement through the State Department at a stop over in Alaska, expressing their “deep appreciation” for the president’s efforts to free them.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home. We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world.”
Statement from the freed Americans, via the State Department: pic.twitter.com/XFxXF3GWGO
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) May 9, 2018
With the president greeting the freed Americans, comedian Dennis Miller responded with a humorous tweet that plays on Hillary Clinton’s memorable “3 a.m. Phone Call” campaign ad.
Miller tweeted: “Who do you want answering the phone at 3AM?” Uh…President Trump. You see, he’ll still be up…you know…returning from Andrews with the three Americans he just sprung from Batshit-vania.”
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