In Speech to Truckers, Trump Hinted at Hostage Release


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President Trump speaking to truckers at an airplane hangar in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday. His forecast during his speech seemed to contradict his own declaration that he never telegraphs his moves in advance.

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Tom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — He was talking taxes with truckers on Wednesday evening when President Trump suddenly diverged into a curious tangent. He had been given “some very, very important news” that “you’ll probably be hearing about” in the next few days. What it was, he did not say.

If the truckers packed in the airport hanger in Harrisburg, Pa., went home that night scratching their heads, Mr. Trump was right that they would eventually realize what he was referring to. By Thursday morning, word emerged that an American woman and her family had been released after five years of captivity by Afghan militants.

The forecast by the president seemed to contradict Mr. Trump’s own declaration that he never telegraphs his moves in advance. But advisers have long ago learned that if Mr. Trump is told something, he may not be able to restrain himself from sharing, as he did with intelligence gleaned from the Israelis when he met with the Russian foreign minister in May.

In this case, it was unclear whether Mr. Trump was hinting at a delicate development before it was fully completed, but aides were sensitive afterward about not disclosing anything prematurely. Mr. Trump often criticized his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for discussing overseas operations too early. “I don’t want to be one of these guys that say, ‘yes, here’s what we’re going to do,’” he said shortly after taking office.

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The speech was supposed to be focused on tax reform, but Mr. Trump veered off course to talk about a country starting to “respect” the United States again.

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Tom Brenner/The New York Times

The American hostage, Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband and their three children were freed from captivity “through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops,” according to a statement from the Pakistani government. But the family was not yet in American hands. The Pakistanis said the hostages, captured in Afghanistan in 2012, were tracked as they were moved across Pakistan. “The operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from U.S. authorities, was successful,” the statement said.

Mr. Trump raised the matter in his speech in Harrisburg to boast that he had made the United States an object of respect again around the world. A global poll this year actually showed a drastic drop in faith in American leadership since Mr. Trump took over in most of the countries surveyed. But the president presumably meant that foreign governments and factions like the Taliban group that was holding the American woman were now taking the United States more seriously since he assumed power.

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