"I find it hard to see how this relationship moves forward. if the Turkish government continues to detain Pastor Brunson as well as locally employed staff, journalists, and civil servants", Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said. And they say he's a spy, but he's not a spy, ' Trump said then.
Trump said Brunson "is suffering greatly". Brunson has been in custody for a year and a half now, though Turkey relented a bit this week and released him from jail and allowed him to return to his residence under house arrest.
"While he is out of jail he is still not free", Pence said, addressing a conference on religious freedom."And to President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America".
Brunson strongly denies the charges.
Turkey's Foreign Minister responded by saying that Turkey was governed by the rule of law.
And an Erdogan spokesman warned the U.S.to "reconsider its approach and adopt a constructive position before inflicting further damage to its own interests and its alliance with Turkey".
Turkey's increasingly turbulent relationship with the United States lurched into uncharted waters following threats of "large sanctions" in a July 26 tweet from President Donald Trump over the continued detention of a North Carolina pastor in a Turkish prison.
Pence said Thursday that if Turkey does not take immediate action to free Andrew Craig Brunson, "the United States of America will impose severe economic sanctions on Turkey".
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in Washington, D.C., hours earlier at a conference on religious freedom, made a similar threat of "significant sanctions" against Ankara over the imprisoned pastor.
"Brunson is an innocent man, there is no credible evidence against him", Pence said in his remarks Thursday.
"A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison". Erdoğan has demanded Gülen in exchange for Brunson, a trade the USA has wisely refused.
Brunson's detention deepened a rift between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Washington and Ankara - also at odds over the Syrian war and Turkey's plan to buy missile defences from Russian Federation - and financial markets took his transfer order as a positive sign.
US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said he believes there is an "excellent prospect" that Mr Brunson will come home. In Iraq, religious minority groups of Yazidis and Christians victimized by ISIS [Islamic State terror group] are still in dire need of security and assistance.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke. He was charged with spying for the PKK - a designated terrorist group in the US and Turkey - and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group Turkey accuses of orchestrating the defeated July 2016 coup attempt.
Brunson was released from prison on Wednesday and placed on house arrest, and forbidden to leave Turkey. Gulen denies the charges.