The Biden administration claimed it made the “very painful decision” to bring women’s basketball player Brittney Griner home Thursday, one that resulted in former U.S. marine Paul Whelan staying behind in Russian prison, reported Politico.
Whelan was jailed by Russian authorities over alleged espionage in December 2018. The former marine was later convinced and given a sentence of 16 years in prison in June 2020.
Negotiations for Whelan’s release heated up after the arrest of Griner earlier in 2020, with Washington aiming to get both Americans back, according to Politico.
In the end, the agreement ended with the Biden administration giving up an infamous Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner alone.
“Due to the nature of the sham espionage charges Russia levied against Paul [Whelan], the Russians have continued to treat his situation differently from Brittney’s and rejected each and every one of our proposals for his release. It was a choice between bringing home one particular American, Brittney Griner, or bringing home none,” a senior Biden official told Politico.
The Biden administration reportedly would not comment on possible security threats that may come as a result of arms dealer Viktor Bout’s release.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the White House faced an impasse and had to make a decision.
“It was either bringing Brittney [Griner] home or no one at all,” explained Jean-Pierre during a recent press conference.
KJP: "It was either bringing Brittney [Griner] home, or no one at all." pic.twitter.com/1DbffvcQ6t
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) December 8, 2022
Former President Trump lambasted the lopsided deal as “stupid” and “unpatriotic.”
“What kind of a deal is it to swap Brittney Griner, a basketball player who openly hates our Country, for the man known as ‘The Merchant of Death,’ who is one of the biggest arms dealers anywhere in the World, and responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and horrific injuries,” he wrote on Truth Social.
“Why wasn’t former Marine Paul Whelan included in this totally one-sided transaction? He would have been let out for the asking. What a ‘stupid’ and unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA!!!”
Whelan himself expressed great disappointment in the United States having still not busted him out, telling CNN, “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up.”
“I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” he added. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”