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Former Venezuela prisoner Josh Holt appears with President Trump

In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. President Donald Trump (L) speaks with freed hostage Joshua Holt in a pre-recorded video broadcasted during the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Utah man who spent 23 months in a Venezuela prison, Josh Holt, appeared at the Republican National Convention alongside President Donald Trump on Monday night. 

Josh Holt seated next to President Trump at RNC

Josh and Thamy Holt were among six people featured in a video with President Trump from the White House. All of them had been held by foreign governments. 

“We were held hostage in Venezuela for two years,” Josh Holt said during the RNC remarks. 

“I know very well,” Mr. Trump responded as Holt chuckled. 

The president hosted the Holts and the others to highlight his administration’s focus on freeing Americans held abroad. He said his administration has helped bring back over 50 hostages from 22 different countries, a number hard to verify because the US government does not regularly release information or statistics on Americans in the custody of foreign governments. 

In the case of the Holts, President Trump described the work to secure their freedom as a bit of a miracle. 

“Well, the great people of Utah really wanted me to do something about the two of you, and we were able to do it, and — a little bit of a miracle, I think, frankly,” the president said on Monday’s broadcast. 

“Yeah, it was,” Josh Holt agreed. 

“Because that was a very hostile period,” Mr. Trump continued.

While the president claimed much of the credit, the work to get the Holts freed was conducted by a group of lawmakers, and the largest part by Senate staffer Caleb McCarry. 

How the Holts’ freedom came about

Behind the scenes over the nearly two years the Holts were imprisoned, two Utah lawmakers worked hard to raise awareness of their plight and try to secure their freedom. Former Rep. Mia Love and retired Sen. Orrin Hatch, both Republicans, raised Holt’s name at every possible opportunity, to President Trump and anyone else they thought could help.

Eventually, that led to the involvement of a Senate staffer who happened to know Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro because of a retreat they’d both attended in 2002. That relationship eventually helped lead to the Holts’ release. But because a number of high-profile lawmakers strongly opposed any negotiations or trades with Venezuela because of the conditions in the country, the Senate staffer, Caleb McCarry, ultimately found himself forced out of his position over his involvement. 

The full story of how Josh and Thamy Holt’s release came about is detailed in the KSL Podcast, “Hope In Darkness: The Josh Holt Story.” All 12 episodes are available to listen and subscribe free anywhere you listen to podcasts.