On Saturday, the State Department secured the release of Xiyue Wang, an American graduate student who was being held prisoner in Iran for the past three years. Wang had been conducting research in Iran as part of his doctoral thesis when he was arrested in 2016 and charged with spying for the United States government.
As part of the exchange, the U.S. released Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist who had been arrested and convicted last year for violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran. According to The New York Times, U.S. officials are calling Soleimani's release a low price to pay to secure Mr. Wang's freedom, since Soleimani was expected to be released as early as next month as part of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
The White House put out a statement acknowledging that "Mr. Wang had been held under the pretense of espionage since August 2016" and thanking "our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr. Wang's release with Iran." The statement declares the safety and well-being of citizens is the highest priority of the United States government. "Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas."
President Trump has been able to use his negotiation skills to secure the release of American prisoners held captive abroad. In 2017, President Trump secured the release of Aya Hijazi, an American humanitarian worker who had been detained in Egypt for more than three years. In 2018, Trump took unprecedented efforts to secure the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American swept up in President Erdogan's purges following the unsuccessful coup against the Turkish leader. Trump also secured the release of Joshua Holt in 2018. Holt is an American Mormon that was held captive in Venezuela for nearly two years and never given a trial. “We’ve had 17 released, and we’re very proud of that record," Trump said as he welcomed Holt back to the United States in May 2018. "Very proud. And we have others coming."
Trump's business acumen and experience in high-stakes negotiations have seemingly helped the commander-in-chief strike much better terms with foreign governments than Trump's immediate predecessor. Obama famously traded five Taliban terrorists for the release of American Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a deserter who was subsequently and dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army. It was reported last year that the five Taliban Terrorists released by President Obama had rejoined their fellow terrorists on the battlefield.