President Trump met in the Oval Office on Friday with Aya Hijazi, the Egyptian American charity worker whom Trump worked to get released from a Cairo prison, where she spent three years on child abuse and trafficking charges widely seen as false.
“We are very happy to have Aya back home, and it’s a great honor to have her in the Oval Office,” Trump said, noting that her brother also attended.
Trump and his guest sat in chairs, flanked by a pair of couches. Among those on the couches were Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser who traveled to Egypt this week.
Trump and his aides worked for several weeks with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to secure the freedom of Hijazi, 30, a U.S. citizen, as well as her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, who is Egyptian, and four other humanitarian workers.
Trump dispatched a U.S. government aircraft to Cairo to bring Hijazi and her family to Washington.
During a briefing for reporters Friday, Spicer emphasized that after Trump was briefed on Hijazi's detention earlier this year he directed his administration to work behind the scenes on the issue.
During a visit to Washington early this month by Sissi, Spicer said that the issue of Hijazi's imprisonment was raised by “the team.”
“I don’t want to get into it, but yes, it was brought up,” Spicer said. “We had some obviously very productive and helpful discussions which resulted in her being able to come back to the United States.”
Asked specifically what the Trump administration was able to do that the former administration was not, Spicer highlighted the behind-the-scenes activity of the new administration.
“I think that the president and the team worked behind the scenes in a much more productive way maybe,” Spicer said. “One could look at the tactic that was done to achieve the result.”
Hijazi, who grew up in Falls Church, Va., and graduated from George Mason University, was working in Cairo with the Belady Foundation, which she and her husband established as a haven and rehabilitation center for street children in Cairo.
The couple and their co-workers had been incarcerated since May 1, 2014, on child abuse and trafficking charges that were widely dismissed by human rights workers and U.S. officials as false.
Philip Rucker and Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.