WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders warned Wednesday that the Trump administration “won’t forget” the Turkish government’s treatment of an American pastor detained there, saying Turkey’s recent financial woes were “of its own making” and not due to the ongoing standoff with the U.S.
“We feel that Turkey and specifically President Erdogan have treated Pastor Brunson, who we know to be a very good person and a strong Christian, who has done nothing wrong, very unfairly,” Sanders said at a press briefing. “And it’s something that we won’t forget in the administration.”
Andrew Brunson was arrested in October 2016 by Turkey’s government on charges of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage. A Turkish appeals court on Wednesday denied Brunson’s petition for appeal.
Sanders said while steel and aluminum tariffs the administration against Turkey are not conditional upon Brunson’s release, recent sanctions the U.S. issued against Turkish officials “are specific to Pastor Brunson and others that we feel are being held unfairly.”
Sanders also said that the White House is monitoring Turkey’s financial sector, as its currency has plunged in recent days, though Qatar on Wednesday pledged to step in with a $15 billion investment.
She dismissed the idea that U.S. policies toward its NATO ally, with whom relations have become rocky, are to blame for its financial woes.
“Turkey’s economic problems, those are a part of a long-term trend, something of its own making, and not the result of any actions the United States has taken,” Sanders said.