Updated Aug 18, 2018

Go deeper: How U.S.-Turkey relations reached a breaking point

A Turkish court Friday rejected an appeal for the release of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor who has been held since 2016 on terrorism charges the U.S. says are baseless.

Why it matters: President Trump has fumed in recent days over Brunson’s continued detention, slapping sanctions on Turkey and threatening further action. He told reporters today that Turkey had "acted very, very badly" and "we are not going to take it sitting down." The standoff has sent long-simmering tensions with Turkey boiling over, and led to fears the U.S.-Turkey alliance could break down.

The backdrop: "There has been a crisis in U.S.-Turkey relations for a while now," says Soner Cagaptay, Washington Institute fellow and author of "The New Sultan." He says other issues over which "the two sides disagree vehemently" include:

  • U.S. support in Syria for the YPG, a Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a terrorist group.
  • The continued residence in Pennsylvania of Fethullah Gulen — a cleric whom Turkish President Recep Erdogan claims was behind the failed attempt to oust him in 2016.
  • Looming punishments for Halkbank, a state-owned Turkish bank accused of helping Iran evade sanctions.

With the standoff over Brunson, however, we have entered uncharted waters. "It went from a crisis in the bureaucracy to a crisis at the presidential level," Cagaptay says.

How that happened...

  • Trump and Erdogan met on the sidelines of last month's NATO summit, and Trump left under the impression that he and Erdogan had reached a deal: the U.S. would secure the release of a Turkish woman held in Israel, and Turkey would release Brunson.
  • But when Brunson was moved to house arrest, rather than released, "Trump felt slighted, and took it personally," Cagaptay says.
  • Trump has now pushed things to the brink, demanding Erdogan's full surrender. "There will be no normalization of relations now without Brunson’s unconditional release," according to Cagaptay.

Erdogan might still have a way out. He could release Brunson, Cagaptay explains, but use his control over the media to frame the move as part of a wider deal that doesn't actually exist.

So why hasn't he done it? Originally, Erdogan wanted to use Brunson as leverage to reduce the punishment on Halkbank and discourage further investigation of the bank by the Treasury Department. Now he's in a bind, but one that has a silver lining.

  • "Erdogan didn’t want this crisis with Trump, but now he’s looking at how he can intertwine it with the other crises he faces," most notably the long-anticipated economic meltdown which Erdogan is now blaming on U.S. sanctions, despite having largely caused it with his own economic policies.
  • "Erdogan is a master of turning situations to his advantage," Cagaptay says. "His base buys into his rhetoric on this, that other countries don’t want Turkey to be a great power."

What to watch: Both leaders have been have been shocked at various stages here, says Aaron Stein of the Atlantic Council — Trump that Brunson wasn't released despite his efforts to "buddy up" to Erdogan, Erdogan that his long-term bet that no U.S. president would risk losing Turkey as an ally has been called.

"They made a bet on the old rules with the new guy."
— Stein on Turkey's decision to continue to hold Brunson

The bottom line: "Political ties will remain tense until Erdogan finds a way to release Brunson and sell it in Turkey," Cagaptay says, though he isn’t expecting the U.S.-Turkey alliance to collapse entirely. "Military and intelligence cooperation remains strong. That could be the foundation of a reset when it eventually comes."

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 710,918 — Total deaths: 33,551 — Total recoveries: 148,900.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 135,499 — Total deaths: 2,381 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health