Former President Donald Trump attacked President Joe Biden on Thursday for the prisoner exchange with Russia that left former Marine Paul Whelan behind.
The Biden administration announced the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner in exchange for Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout.
“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,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.
According to the Arizona Republic, Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, was among the athletes who opposed to the national anthem being sung before games.
According to The New York Times, Bout was convicted in 2011 of attempting to murder American citizens through arms deals that included collaboration with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Trump stated that the arrangement does not free Whelan, an American who should have been released.
“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!!!” Trump wrote.
After leaving the Marine Corps, Whelan worked in corporate security before being detained in Russia in December 2018. According to The New York Times, he was convicted of espionage in June 2020, despite American authorities’ claims that the allegations were unfounded and politically motivated.
Whelan told CNN he was “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. … I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here,” he said in a call from prison.
Whelan had hoped to be a part of the agreement that had been in the works for weeks.
“I was led to believe that things were moving in the right direction, and that the governments were negotiating and that something would happen fairly soon,” he said.
He acknowledged that his circumstances are distinct from those of Griner, who was arrested on a drug charge in February.
“They’ve always considered me to be at a higher level than other criminals of my sort and for whatever reason, I’m treated differently than another individual here from a Western country that’s also on a charge of espionage,” Whelan said.
Meet Brittney Griner & Marine Paul Whelan.
Both were convicted in Russian courts on dubious charges.
Both serving multi-year sentences in Russian prison.
Brittney hates America
Paul served America
Guess which one Biden traded a terrorist to free?
Semper fi Paul pic.twitter.com/tuP1R6AZpf
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) December 8, 2022
Biden insisted Whelan was not forgotten.
“Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up,” he said.