The Biden administration has offered to swap a prolific arms dealer who conspired to kill Americans for a WNBA player who smuggled cannabis oil into Russia and a wrongfully accused former Marine, CNN reported Thursday.
President Joe Biden supports freeing Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer known as “the Merchant of Death,” in exchange for basketball player Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan. Bout sold weapons to Marxist insurgents in Angola, allegedly dealt arms during the Yugoslav wars, and planned to sell guns to communist insurgents in Colombia who intended to kill Americans. Bout’s crimes inspired the 2005 film Lord of War.
The Washington Free Beacon in an editorial this month said the administration should not elevate Griner’s case above Whelan’s. Griner, a millionaire athlete and left-wing activist, likely committed the crime of which she’s accused, while Whelan, who has been locked up since 2019, was likely framed by Russia’s spy service. Earlier this month, Whelan’s sister said the Biden administration had not talked to the Whelan family.
Griner made headlines in 2020 when she refused to stand for the national anthem during the entirety of the WNBA season.
The Russian government, which is waging an unprovoked war in Ukraine, has frequently asked the U.S. government to swap Bout in a prisoner exchange, CNN noted.
When asked why, CIA director William J. Burns last week said, “That’s a good question because Viktor Bout’s a creep.”
Biden’s support for the prisoner trade conflicts with the Department of Justice’s position on the issue, CNN reported. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden had the final say on the proposal.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that “so far there is no agreement” on a swap.