Trump wants to see Austin Tice home before he leaves office, says national security adviser

The Trump administration is using every tool to bring home Austin Tice, the American journalist and former Marine held captive in Syria for over eight years, with the hope of achieving that goal before the president leaves office, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in an interview released Monday.

“What I can tell you is that we’re using every tool — every lever we have — to get Austin out,” O’Brien said in an interview with The Hill’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons as part of the 2020 Global Security Forum that took place last week.

Tice, who is originally from Texas, was kidnapped in Damascus, Syria, in August 2012 while working as a freelance journalist and reporting on the Syrian civil war.

Efforts by the Trump administration to bring Tice home appeared to gain traction this year, when it was reported last month that two senior U.S. officials traveled to Damascus in August and met with Ali Mamlouk, head of Syria’s intelligence agency.

O’Brien, who served as U.S. special envoy for hostage affairs between 2018 and 2019, called efforts to bring Tice home “very frustrating” and said Trump wants to see the former Marine back in the U.S. before the president leaves office.

“It’s been a very frustrating case, but we’re using every tool, whether it’s through our allies, whether it’s through adversaries, whether it’s … we’re doing everything we can to get Austin back,” he said, “and we would like to get him back, and I’d like to see him back, and I know the president would like to see him back before he leaves office. But I can’t comment further on the case at this time.”

President Trump is continuing to contest the election results that determined Joe Biden as the president-elect, refusing to concede and mounting legal challenges against the results. O’Brien said in his interview that the transition to a Biden administration would take place if the president’s “current lawsuits don’t work out.”

O’Brien highlighted other American hostages the Trump administration is working to bring home, including Jeffery Woodke, being held by ISIS in West Africa; the Citgo six, American oil executives who are imprisoned in Venezuela; and Americans detained in Russia, including former Marines Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, as well as businessman Michael Calvey.

O’Brien said that the Trump administration has rescued more than 56 hostages and detainees in more than 24 countries over the course of the president’s four years in office, calling it an “unprecedented success.”

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