Former President Donald Trump is claiming he turned down a deal to release ex-U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in return for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been serving a lengthy federal prison sentence in Illinois.
President Biden last week traded Bout for WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, who had been detained in Russia after authorities found cannabis-derived oil in her airport luggage in February.
The prisoner swap prompted cheers for Ms. Griner but was a reminder that Mr. Whelan, held on espionage charges the U.S. considers bogus, remains in Russia.
Mr. Trump said a “one on one swap” for Mr. Whelan in exchange for Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” would not have been balanced, so he rejected it.
“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,” Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social, the social media platform he launched after getting kicked off Twitter.
Mr. Trump added that he would have “gotten Paul out, however.”
It is unclear how Mr. Biden will attempt to spring Mr. Whelan, though the White House pledged to continue trying.
Some Biden critics said it was dangerous to let a notorious arms dealer return to Russia, given his track record and the precedent created by the swap.
Mr. Trump claimed Ms. Griner would not have been detained in the first place if he were still president.
“The deal for Griner is crazy and bad,” the former president said. “The taking wouldn’t have even happened during my Administration, but if it did, I would have gotten her out, fast!”