Hatch, Trump say American held in Venezuela returning to US

Hatch, Trump say American held in Venezuela returning to US
© Greg Nash

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Yale Law School students, alumni denounce Trump Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Utah) said on Saturday that he had secured the release of a Utah man who has been held prisoner in Venezuela for two years. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE indicated that the man would be welcomed at the White House.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Hatch's office said that Joshua Holt and his wife, Thamy Holt, were en route to Washington from Caracas, and that he would soon be returned to his family. 

"Over the last two years I've worked with two Presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contacts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela, and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton," Hatch said.

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Hatch also thanked Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerWhat Trump’s NATO defense plan would mean for the US Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who met with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Friday in Caracas. 

Hatch was a vocal advocate for Holt's release. His office said on Saturday that the senator had been on the phone with Maduro in recent weeks as he sought to secure Holt's release.

In a tweet, Trump said that the "hostage" would make an appearance at the White House on Saturday night with his family. 

"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.," Trump tweeted. "The great people of Utah will be very happy!"

A White House spokesman did not immediately return The Hill's request for comment on Holt's release.

In a second tweet about an hour after his initial announcement, Trump declared that Utahans were "celebrating" Holt's return, and that he was looking forward to the man's arrival at the White House. 

"Looking forward to seeing Joshua Holt this evening in the White House," Trump tweeted. "The great people of Utah are Celebrating!"

Holt's return came days after he pleaded for help in a cellphone video recorded in a Caracas prison. 

"I’ve been begging my government for two years. They say they’re doing things, but I’m still here," Holt, 26, said in the video, which was posted on Facebook on Wednesday.

The Utah man was jailed in 2016 when he traveled to Venezuela to marry his wife, whom he had met online. Venezuelan authorities accused him of stockpiling weapons and conspiring with Los Sindicalistas, a Venezuelan paramilitary gang.

Holt's release also came weeks after North Korea freed three American prisoners during a brief visit to the country by Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: Talks with North Korea on returning war dead ‘productive and cooperative’ Trump: Why isn’t ‘fake news’ talking about North Korea? Trump’s arms export rules will undermine US security and risk human rights abuses MORE.

The U.S. has stepped up sanctions against Venezuela recently in an effort to put pressure on Maduro's government. The Venezuelan president won reelection last week in a contest widely regarded by the country's political opposition and Washington as a sham. 

— Updated at 1:16 p.m.