Corker helps free American imprisoned in Venezuela, joins Trump in White House celebration

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker flew to Venezuela to help arrange the release of Josh Holt, a Utah man who had been imprisoned in the country, then joined President Trump, Holt and others at the White House Saturday to celebrate the Utah man’s freedom.

From the Politico report on the Washington gathering:

Flanked by his wife, Thamy, and daughter, Marian, who had also been held in Venezuela, Holt became emotional as he thanked a number of officials and politicians gathered in the Oval Office for securing his release.

“I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude for you guys for everything you’ve done,” Holt said, “… for thinking about me and caring about me as a normal person, so thank you.”

Trump thanked State Department officials alongside Republican Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah).

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to Venezuela this week, meeting with President Nicolas Maduro, and flew back with Holt, who had traveled to Venezuela in 2016 to marry the woman he met online before his arrest and imprisonment.

Corker said was “it quite an experience” as he, Caleb McCarry, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer, State Department officials and others negotiated with Venezuelans.

“We could almost write a book about the last 48 hours,” Corker said.

Hatch and Love praised the president for his role in Holt’s return.

“This shows why we support you,” Hatch said. “When you look back over your tenure in the presidency, this is just one of the many great things that you are doing.”

…Before the Oval Office meeting, Trump had shared the news on Twitter.

“Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela. Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 P.M,” the president wrote on Twitter. “The great people of Utah will be very happy!”

…Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held onto power in last week’s national elections, which the White House has labeled a “sham.” Maduro expelled the top U.S. diplomat stationed there on Tuesday, a move that came a day after the U.S. slapped new sanctions on the country.

A statement released later Saturday by the White House press office said: “The release of Joshua Holt does not change United States policy. The Maduro regime must call free, fair, and transparent elections, consistent with its constitution. The election process that occurred on May 20 was illegitimate. The regime must allow all Venezuelans and political parties to participate freely in new elections and the democratic process. It must release all political prisoners, and must accept desperately needed international humanitarian aid for Venezuela’s dying citizens.”


Press release from Sen. Bob Corker’s office

CARACAS, Venezuela – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement on the release of American citizen Josh Holt and his wife, Thamy, who have been detained in a Venezuelan prison for the last two years.

“I am pleased to join Senator Hatch and President Trump in announcing the release of Josh and Thamy Holt,” said Corker. “Senator Hatch has worked tirelessly on the Holt family’s behalf, and I was honored to play a small role in bringing Josh and his wife home to the United States. I also would like to thank Secretary Pompeo and his team at the State Department for all that they have done.”

“On a personal note, I would like to thank Caleb McCarry, an incredibly valued member of my staff, for his dogged determination. We would not have been successful without his involvement,” added Corker.

Earlier this year, at the request of Hatch, Corker began discussions with the Venezuelan government in an effort to secure the couple’s release. He met in March with Venezuelan Governor Rafael Lacava in Washington and met Friday in Caracas with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at his request.

Corker and McCarry are traveling with the Holts from Venezuela and will land in Washington this evening.

Corker has long advocated for the release of unjustly detained Americans around the world, including in Iran, North Korea, Turkey, and Africa.

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