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Otto Warmbier, UCLA basketball playerJalen Hill and Aya Hijazi Photo: Susan Walsh, Jon Chol Jin, Jae C. Hong / AP

While in China for his overseas trip, President Trump pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping to release three UCLA basketball players who had been put under arrest for stealing designer sunglasses the week before. This makes five Americans Trump has worked to successfully return home after being held in foreign prisons.

Our thought bubble: Trump prides himself on being a dealmaker, and helping negotiate Americans' return from foreign nations has been a prominent success for which he can claim credit.

The back story: During Obama's presidency, Trump often called on the administration to find ways to free Americans being held overseas. He was particularly critical that the Iran deal did not include the safe return of several American hostages.

Returned home
  • 3 UCLA basketball players were arrested two weeks ago in Hangzhou, China, for shoplifting. Trump, during a visit to China the next week, asked Xi to release them. Trump then tweeted asking whether the basketball players would thank him for ensuring their release, and in a press conference they did.
  • Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian- American charity worker, returned to the U.S. in April after being held in Cairo for three years. President Obama had been unable to secure her return, but Trump reportedly managed to reach an agreement with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
  • Otto Warmbier: The UVA student who had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster while in the country for a study abroad program. He was returned to the U.S. in a coma a year later after the Trump administration managed to reach an agreement with the North Korean government. Warmbier died several days after his return.
Still overseas

These are the prisoners being held overseas who Trump and his administration have been making efforts to bring back to the U.S.

  • Leopoldo Lopez: He's a Venezuelan politician and activist who was put in jail in 2014 and transferred to house arrest in 2017. Trump tweeted about him in February, and in August, the White House said in a statement that it would hold Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro "personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr. Lopez."
  • Robert Levinson was an FBI agent who went missing in Iran 10 years ago. In 2015, then-candidate Trump swore to bring Levinson home, along with the three other Americans held hostage in Iran, if elected. This March, then-press secretary Sean Spicer said, "We want him back, and we will spare no effort to achieve that goal," according to the Washington Post.
  • Siamak and Baquer Namazi: In June, the Washington Post reported that the White House was ramping up efforts to return the businessman and his father home after being placed into custody in Iran in 2015.
  • Xiyue Wang is a Chinese-born American who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for spying. In a White House statement released in July, Trump placed responsibility for Wang's health and well-being on Iran.
  • Andrew Brunson: Last year, the pastor was taken into custody in Turkey and the Trump administration has said it is a priority to get him home.
  • Austin Tice: The Trump administration set up a backchannel to try and secure the release of the journalist, who is being held hostage in Syria.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.