Trump Reveals He Turned Down Prisoner Swap Deal

( Last week, the Biden administration struck a prison swap deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin to bring Brittney Griner back home to the U.S.

To make that happen, the U.S. had to release Viktor Bout, an arms dealer, back to Russia. In doing so, the American government left behind Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018.

On Sunday, former President Donald Trump took to his social media platform Truth Social to criticize the deal that President Joe Biden made with Putin to free Griner and release Bout.

He wrote:

“I turned down a deal with Russia for a one on one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul Whelan. 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.”

Griner spent roughly 10 months in custody in Russia after being arrested on February 17 for carrying hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Griner was flying to Russia so she could re-join her professional basketball team that is based in Moscow — a team she plays for during the offseason of the American-based WNBA.

Almost immediately after the deal was announced, Trump criticized it, saying that Whelan should’ve been the one to be freed instead of Griner. Biden administration officials insist that Russia wasn’t willing to include Whelan in the prisoner swap.

Despite turning down a deal with Putin to free Whelan while he was in office, Trump said that he “would have gotten Paul out,” though he didn’t go into more details about why he never did that.

Instead, he focused his words on criticisms of the deal the Biden administration struck, writing:

“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!”

Fiona Hill, who served as a White House national security official during the Trump administration, did confirm over the weekend that the Bout-for-Whelan swap was indeed possible while Trump was still president.

Appearing on the “Face the Nation” program on CBS Sunday, Hill said:

“At the particular time, I also have to say here that President Trump wasn’t especially interested in engaging in that swap for also Paul Whelan. He was not particularly interested in Paul’s case in the way that one would have thought he would be.”

That’s a claim that David Whelan, who is Paul’s brother, backed up. He appeared on an MSNBC program on Saturday, saying the Trump administration appeared not “interested in” his brother’s case at all. He explained:

“I think the first two years, partly I think the Trump administration was not prepared to or not interested in working on wrongful detention cases. The Biden administration is much more engaged in wrongful detentions.”

So, for now, Griner is free and back in the United States while Whelan is still waiting to be helped while in Russian custody.