Mnuchin defends delay in sanctions against Turkey: 'This is a complicated, developing situation'

Mnuchin defends delay in sanctions against Turkey: 'This is a complicated, developing situation'
© Greg Nash

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump to tour Apple factory with Tim Cook on Wednesday The Hill's Morning Report — Public impeachment drama resumes today On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE on Sunday defended a delay in imposing sanctions on Turkey, saying the Trump administration is ready to move forward “at a moment’s notice” over Ankara's military action in northern Syria.

“You announced Friday that you now have the authority to impose sanctions on Turkey for what we’re seeing unfold,” host Jon Karl said on ABC’s “This Week.”

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“Given that we’ve already seen — a hundred thousand people reportedly displaced, these ISIS prisoners out, set loose, execution of some of America’s Kurdish allies, what is the holdup? Why don’t you just impose these sanctions?” Karl asked.

“Let me just say this is a complicated, developing situation. You have a NATO ally on one hand fighting against the Kurds who were helping us with the fight against ISIS. We are in daily communications with Turkey, both at the Defense Department, the State Department, on very specific issues. We are ready to go at a moment’s notice to put on sanctions,” Mnuchin replied.

“And as I’ve said, these sanctions could be starting small, they could be maximum pressure which would destroy the Turkish economy,” he said, adding that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE is “very focused” on the issue and stressing that events are developing.

Mnuchin announced Friday that Trump would sign an executive order giving the Treasury Department “very significant” new sanctions authorities against Turkey. But it’s unclear whether the move will be enough to placate Republicans on Capitol Hill who have criticized Trumps decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria ahead of a Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurds it considers terrorists but who helped the U.S. fight ISIS.

“What are you waiting for? Look at what we’ve just seen on the ground. I mean, this is a rapidly deteriorating situation,” Karl said on Sunday.

“You are correct, it is moving quickly. We will be meeting at the [National Security Council] today, again, to monitor the situation. We will be taking in new information. And we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice to put on sanctions,” Mnuchin said.

“We have warned the Turks. I spoke to the finance minister on Friday. The State Department has also had conversations,” he added. “They know what we will do if they don’t stop these activities.”

Trump, in a tweet Sunday, said he is working with lawmakers on imposing "powerful" sanctions against Turkey. 

"Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done," he tweeted. "Stay tuned!"

Updated at 9:41 a.m.