Mnuchin: Turkey will face more sanctions if pastor not released 'quickly'

Mnuchin: Turkey will face more sanctions if pastor not released 'quickly'
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Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread On The Money: Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in stimulus talks | Prosecutors hint at probe into 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization' Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House MORE said Thursday that his department is preparing to impose more financial sanctions on top Turkish officials as the White House pursues the release of a jailed American pastor.

Mnuchin said during a White House Cabinet meeting that the Treasury Department was preparing further penalties for Turkey in response to a question from President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE on the status of sanctions, according to media reports.

Mnuchin said Thursday that Treasury would likely target more of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's top officials if Ankara refused to let Brunson return to the U.S.

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"We have put sanctions on several of their Cabinet members. We have more that we are planning to do if they don't release him quickly,” Mnuchin said.

Trump has cranked up economic pressure on Erdoğan in an effort to free Andrew Brunson, an American pastor detained in Turkey since 2016. The White House last week doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, and Treasury blocked Turkey’s interior and justice ministers from the U.S. financial system.

Erdoğan has refused to release Brunson, who is accused of aiding a failed coup, and has called for the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric that Erdoğan has blamed for leading the coup.

U.S. officials have refused to accept those terms for Brunson’s release and say Gülen, a legal U.S. resident, is entitled to due process before being deported to Turkey.

Further sanctions on Ankara could create more economic chaos for Turkey while it faces a severe financial crisis. The lira fell against the dollar after Mnuchin’s announcement, a day after the Turkish currency had begun to return from record lows.

Erdoğan has blamed Turkey’s failing economy on Trump’s actions and panned Western powers for waging “economic war” on his country.

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A flood of loans from European banks had helped Turkey fuel a massive, debt-funded expansion that boosted the country’s economy but also spurred rampant inflation. Yet Erdoğan had resisted calls from Western powers to embrace policies that would stabilize the lira and financial markets.

Turkey declined to accept aid from the International Monetary Fund on Thursday, but Finance Minister Beret Albayrak said Ankara would cut spending and tighten financial markets to slow down its overheating economy.

Jordan Fabian contributed.