White House says Turkey must release American pastor to cool tensions

White House says Turkey must release American pastor to cool tensions
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The Trump administration has called on Turkish officials to release a jailed American pastor in order to cool tensions between the U.S. and Turkey.

An administration official told The Associated Press that national security adviser John Bolton met with Turkey's ambassador to the U.S. Thursday and told him that pastor Andrew Brunson must be released.

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Brunson is accused by Turkish officials of espionage and terrorism-related offenses. The Trump administration has called the allegations baseless and demanded his release, and sanctioned two top Turkish officials over his imprisonment. 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump officials heading to China for trade talks next week US sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest Treasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers MORE on Thursday said the U.S. is prepared to levy additional sanctions.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE tweeted Thursday that the U.S. will pay "nothing" for his safe return, but would be "cutting back" on Turkey until his release.

"Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years. They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage. We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!" he tweeted.

Turkey retaliated with threats of sanctions on America's "justice and interior ministers" from Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, though it was unclear if any Trump administration officials would be affected.

Trump also recently announced the doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs against the country, a move that has further degraded U.S.-Turkey relations.

“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!,” Trump tweeted last Friday.