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 MnuchinOn The Money: Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress | Trump complains of 'political prosecution' | Biden rebukes Trump, rolls out jobs plan Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Why Trump can't make up his mind on China MORE on Thursday said the U.S. is prepared to levy additional sanctions.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' 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.