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AP reveals details of Trump bid to release hostages in Syria

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National security reporter Eric Tucker, homeland security reporter Ben Fox and diplomatic reporter Matthew Lee combined source work and on-the-record reporting to reveal details of a secret trip to Syria taken by two Trump administration officials in a last-ditch effort to secure the release of kidnapped journalist Austin Tice and other U.S. hostages before the U.S. presidential election.

Fox used years of source development to land the first on-the-record interview with one of the officials who made the risky trip to Damascus, while Tucker and Lee used their own sourcing to corroborate key details with current and former U.S. officials.

The story was the most definitive account to date of the secretive meeting and revealed how the talks were stymied by significant Syrian demands, including an insistence on the restoration of full diplomatic ties, and by the lack of information the Syrians offered about Tice’s fate or whereabouts. It also revealed how the U.S. government, in an effort to build goodwill, had an ally in the region offer assistance for the cancer treatment of the wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as new correspondence between President Donald Trump and Tice’s mother last year.

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