Trump Claims He Can Free an American Detainee—If He’s Reelected

Donald Trump posted on Truth Social today that he can free the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich from his unjust detainment in Russia—but only after he is elected president.

Evan Gershkovich, the Reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the Election, but definitely before I assume Office. He will be HOME, SAFE, AND WITH HIS FAMILY. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do that for me, but not for anyone else, and WE WILL BE PAYING NOTHING!

Trump, of course, has a tendency to make claims in which he is the only solution to a difficult problem—“I alone can fix it” was part of his 2016-campaign rhetoric. But even by Trump’s standards, this is an odd assertion for several reasons, including the small detail that the Russians have denied any contact with Trump about Gershkovich. (The Kremlin even seemed to reprimand the former president: “Any contact regarding those imprisoned or convicted,” Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said today, “must be carried out in complete silence and in a discreet manner.”)

In his post, Trump seems to be claiming some sort of special friendship with Putin. The evidence from their meetings over the years is that the two presidents are not personal friends; Trump, for his part, seems very much intimidated by Putin.

But perhaps such a relationship exists, and maybe Trump can spring Gershkovich. If so, Gershkovich’s family and others might wonder why Trump would wait until after the election to help an American citizen: Trump could call Putin right now and ask for Gershkovich’s release. When asked by Time magazine why he hadn’t done so, Trump said that he’d been too busy, but added: “And I probably have said very good things about him,” meaning Gershkovich.


In any case, there is no U.S. law prohibiting anyone from making an appeal to a foreign leader, and several prominent Americans have made similar efforts. In 1984, for example, Reverend Jesse Jackson traveled to Syria to seek the freedom of a downed U.S. pilot, and former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea in 2009 to bring home two detained Americans.

Indeed, it would be a show of power if Trump, with a phone call, could succeed where President Joe Biden has so far failed. Trump’s post, however, implies that he is almost gleeful that Gershkovich will be left in a Russian jail if the American public fails to offer Trump the presidency again.

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