'We are ready to go at a moment's notice' Secretary Mnuchin on Turkey sanctions

ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl interviews Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on "This Week."
7:29 | 10/13/19

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Transcript for 'We are ready to go at a moment's notice' Secretary Mnuchin on Turkey sanctions
Joining us now treasury secretary Steven mnuchin. Secretary, you announced Friday that you now have the authority to impose sanctions on Turkey for what we're seeing unfold. Given that we've seen 100,000 people displaced, these ISIS prisoners out, execution of some of America's kurdish allies, what's the hold-up? Why don't you impose the sanctions? This is a complicated developing situation. You have a nato ally on one hand fighting against the kurds who were helping us with the fight against ISIS. We're in daily communication with Turkey, both at the defense department, the state department on very specific issues. We are ready to go on a moment's noticed to put on sanctions. As I said, these sanctions could be starting small. They could be maximum pressure which would destroy the Turkish economy. The president is very focussed on this. He's offered to mediate the situation. It's a developing situation. What are you waiting for? Look at what we saw on the ground. This is a rapidly deteriorating situation. You are correct. It is moving quickly. We'll be meeting to day. We'll be taking in new information and we're ready to go at a moment's notice to put on sanctions. We warned the Turks. I spoke to the finance minister Friday. The state department has had conversations. They know what we will do if they don't stop these activities. They don't seem to be listening to those warnings. Do we have an obligation -- does the United States have an obligation to defend U.S. Allies, the kurds who have fought with us against ISIS? Let me explain U.S. Allies. I understand Turkey -- Turkey is a nato ally. Our traditional, major alliance is nato. We have two people that we have support with who are fighting against each other. The president has also said -- One has invaded the other to be clear. -- He wants to get the troops out of Syria and get out of these long-standing wars. We're being very clear with Turkey what is going on. The president was clear in making sure that ISIS prisoners are not escaping. I've seen your reporting. This is an issue we are on top of. Let's hear what Lindsey graham just had to say about this. He tells axios -- he said I think the president is putting the nation at risk. If I hear the president say one more time I made a campaign promise to get out of Syria, I'm going to throw up. Your reaction? I like Lindsey graham a lot. I respect Lindsay. Lindsey graham and the president this is obviously an issue they don't agree on. These are complicated issues. You can't have one-minute sound bites. I assure you the president and the national security staff are on top of the situation. Our number one issue is making sure that ISIS is defeated. We'll make sure that occurs. Lindsey graham and others bipartisan reaction to the sanctions -- the proposed sanctions you announced, they're saying this is simply not enough. Here's what graham said. We're witnessing ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey and the reemergence of ISIS. The conditional sanctions today will be viewed by Turkey as a tepid respond and will embolden their president even more. Let me explain. This is a multi-step process. The first was making sure we have the proper authorizations. If we go to maximum pressure, which we have the right to do, at a moment's notice the president calls me and tells me, we will do that. We can shut down all U.S. Dollar transactions with the entire government of Turkey. Is that something you may do? It's something we may do. Absolutely. There's full authority within the eo and it's something at a moment's notice the president can tell me to do. Explain something to me the president said about this. Take a listen. Now the kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand. They're fighting for their land. Somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the second they didn't help us with normandy as an example. What is he talking about? First the kurds didn't have a state back then. Did he expect the kurds would have been on Omaha beach? No. I think the analogy is everyone is saying the kurds are these long-standing allies. Our role in Syria was not to defend land for the kurds. Our focus was to defeat ISIS. You have a long-standing conflict between people helping us with ISIS and Turkey which is a nato ally. I don't think this is as simple as -- this isn't Russia attacking the kurds. This is a nato ally. We've put them on warning. The president has authorized me to shut down the Turkey economy and we can do that at a moment's notice on his command. On China, the president announced what he called a phase one deal with the Chinese. Went on to say it could be the largest deal ever. It's not a done deal yet. Do you think this actually happens by next month as he suggested? We have a lot of work to do. I'm confident both sides will work very hard and anticipate we'll be closing this. Phase one includes very substantial issues. People originally thought this was just going to be about Al culture purchases. There are multiple chapters. The intellectual property rights chapter will be included in its entirety. Financial services, foreign exchange, agriculture structural issues which isn't just selling things. It's not just selling soy beans. It's not just about selling soy beans. These are structural issues around bio tech and an enforcement chapter. It includes substantial purchases of agriculture. $40 to $50 billion. As the president said, I hope our farmers can deliver this. It's a gigantic amount. One last question on China before you go. I want to play you something the president said last week. China should start an investigation into the Bidens. What happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. Could you settle something with me? Some of the president's allies suggested he was joking there, that he wasn't being serious. Was he serious there? Does he think the Chinese should investigate the Bidens? I can't comment on whether he was serious. I can comment on we have never had any discussions in the trade meetings. The Bidens never came up? That's correct. In the oval office when the president was asked about this in front of the vice premier, the president was very clear. They can do whatever they want. People who are trying to imply the president is asking for things, I think this is ridiculous. Secretary mnuchin, thank you for coming in to talk to us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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