The rejection could lead to the US imposing additional sanctions against Turkey sometime this week, the Journal reported. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the United States is willing to do so if Brunson isn’t released.
“A real NATO ally wouldn’t have arrested Brunson in the first place,” the senior White House official told the Journal, referring to Turkey’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The North Carolina native’s case has rapidly soured relations between Washington and Ankara, with the two sides trading increasingly heated rhetoric and retaliatory tariffs.
An evangelical pastor, Brunson has lived in Turkey for more than 23 years with his wife and three children, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), an organization led by attorney Jay Sekulow that has advocated for his release.
But in October 2016, several months after a failed coup attempt in Turkey, Brunson was arrested and accused of plotting to overthrow the Turkish government.
He was formally indicted in March on charges of espionage and having links to terrorist organizations. The charges against Brunson include supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party as well as the Gulen Movement, which Turkey says orchestrated the coup attempt.
The US has also slapped sanctions against Turkey’s ministers of justice and interior over the issue, and both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have taken up Brunson’s case with Turkish officials.
Tensions in the Turkey-US relationship have been steadily ratcheting up for weeks, even as the NATO allies cooperate on other fronts, perhaps most importantly coordinating over the US air base in Incirlik, Turkey.
“Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives,” Erdogan said. “Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies.”
CNN’s Eric Levenson, Clare Foran and Kaitlan Collins contributed reporting.