(SOUNDBITE) PRESIDENT TRUMP SAYING: "This is a tremendous step"… U.S. President Donald Trump hailing Turkeys' release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson after two years in Ankara's custody….
(SOUNDBITE) PRESIDENT TRUMP SAYING: "I do want to thank President Erdogan for making it possible.
You understand what I mean by that.
It wasn't easy.." At the White House on Saturday with the pastor, Trump denied cutting a deal with Ankara and said no ransom was paid… (SOUNDBITE) PRESIDENT TRUMP SAYING: "We've been negotiating long and hard.
We do not pay ransom in this country/otherwise you'll have big problems, lots of bad things will happen." Erdogan responded to the thanks from Trump by posting a message on Twitter saying Brunson's release was due to a court decision and not the Turkish president.
On Friday, a Turkish court sentenced Brunson to prison on terrorism charges, but said he would not serve any further time after having already served more than three years.
Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, had been charged with having links to Kurdish militants and supporters of a U.S. based Muslim cleric..
Brunson has denied the accusations.
Relations between the two countries worsened in August after a deal to free Brunson fell apart… Trump authorized the doubling of duties on aluminum and steel imported from Turkey, helping drive the lira currency down against the dollar… But Brunson's release could now signal a thaw in relations between the two NATO allies... SOUNDBITE FROM BRUNSON THANKING TRUMP At the White House, Brunson and his wife Norine said prayers for Trump.
(upsound) Brunson saying " please give him supernatural wisdom"..
(upsound of Norine praying) TRUMP SOUNDBITE ASKING HER WHO SHE VOTED FOR Brunson's release will likely score points with U.S. evangelical Christians, a big part of TRUMP'S base and POTENTIALLY important with the November midterm elections approaching.