President Donald Trump welcomed U.S. Navy veteran Michael White home on Friday after White spent almost two years as a prisoner of the Iranian regime.
So great to have Michael home. Just arrived. Very exciting. Thank you to Iran. Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now! https://t.co/OGJU2VWBWq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
Trump took the occasion to poke the Iranians and advise them against waiting to negotiate until after the November election in the hope that a Democrat president might give them a better deal.
“I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!” he informed Tehran.
“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump exclaimed in a somewhat less pugnacious tweet about White’s release a few hours earlier. In that message, Trump said he had spoken to White on the telephone while he was laid over in Zurich, Switzerland, en route to the United States.
White flew from Zurich to Dulles International Airport on Friday morning. He told Fox News he caught a few hours of sleep on the flight and had steak for dinner.
“I’m happy to be back,” White said from the runway at Dulles. “I’ve been semi-free since they let me go on parole in Iran. I want to extend my personal thanks to President Trump for his efforts, both diplomatically and otherwise, at making America great again, and I look forward to what’s going to happen here in the future.”
White said his physical condition was “improving” after his release. He said he contracted the Wuhan coronavirus while in an Iranian prison, but was now “recovering pretty decently and getting back into shape” with the help of “the Swiss embassy and the Trump administration.”
U.S. and Iranian officials all denied White was freed in exchange for Iranian scientist Sirous Asgari, who was released from U.S. detention and sent back to Iran on Wednesday. According to a senior U.S. official who spoke to Fox News, those denials are accurate, but White was exchanged for a different prisoner: Iranian-American doctor Majid Taheri, a 33-year resident of the United States who spent 16 months in jail for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed that as part of the deal for White’s release, Taheri would be allowed to visit Iran, seek medical treatment there, and return to the United States. He was released from custody two months ago after pleading guilty to sanctions violations and receiving a sentence of time served. Taheri was specifically charged in 2018 with evading banking reporting requirements on some $300,000 in cash deposits and exporting a medical device with possible chemical and biological warfare applications to Iran.