Former President Donald Trump had more to say Sunday about President Joe Biden’s “crazy and bad” trade of the Merchant of Death for a WNBA player, with some insight into what happened when a similar opportunity arose during his tenure.
Biden’s approval of the prisoner swap with Russia setting basketball player Brittney Griner, arrested for traveling with drugs into the country, in exchange for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout has been widely panned, not only for the staggering difference in the perceived value of the prisoners but also because former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan remains incarcerated by the Russians as well.
Convicted of espionage charges in 2020 after a 2018 arrest, Whelan has been held captive by Russia far longer than Griner who had only been arrested and tried this year, and, according to Trump, he had already passed on making the same deal for Bout while he was still in office.
“I turned down a deal with Russia for a one on one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul Whelan,” he said in a Truth Social post Sunday. “I wouldn’t have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone that has killed untold numbers of people with his arms deals.”
“I would have gotten Paul out, however, just as I did with a record number of other hostages,” Trump assured before adding, “The deal for Griner is crazy and bad. The taking wouldn’t have even happened during my Administration, but if it did, I would have gotten her out , fast!”
The remarks followed Trump’s Thursday assessment of the “one-sided,” “‘stupid’ and unpatriotic embarrassment” of a trade which he asserted could have included Whelan who “would have been let out for the asking.”
Though appearing to try and take a shot at the former president’s character, Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Russian affairs and a witness for Trump’s first impeachment, seemingly corroborated the claim during an appearance Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“I also have to say here that President Trump wasn’t especially interested in engaging in that swap for Paul Whelan,” she offered before trying to downplay his concern over a U.S. citizen being held in a foreign prison. “He was not particularly interested in Paul’s case in the way that one would have thought he would be.”
Hill also seemed to suggest that Biden had gotten played by the Russian government when she stated of the arrest of Griner, “And we have to be mindful of the fact that when governments do this, they’re doing it for trading purposes, but they’re also doing it to mess about in our politics.”
“And we’re falling every single time for this–the more that we fight with each other, the more that we play into their hands,” Hill added. “And we also risk other Americans being taken, because it’s a way of influencing our domestic politics.”
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