Former President Donald Trump and the former DEA agent who helped put the arms dealer that the United States just traded to Russia for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner behind bars, slammed the swap as “a free deal.”
The “Merchant of Death, 56-year-old Viktor Bout, who was serving out a 25-year federal sentence for shilling tens of millions in weapons intended to kill Americans, was swapped in exchange for the 32-year-old two-time Olympian on Thursday.
Griner was convicted for admittedly smuggling a small amount of marijuana oil into Russia last February, amid heightened tensions between the United States and the communist country over the impending invasion of Ukraine.
Though the WNBA star claimed she had mistakenly packed the drugs, despite possessing a prescription for them in the United States, she was sentenced to nine years in a hard labor penal colony.
When she was photographed in Moscow during the prisoner swap, her signature dread lock hair style were noticeably missing, which her lawyer chalked up to the extreme cold at IK-2 prison in Mordovia.
“It’s very cold in there and every time she washed her hair, she got cold and would get a chill,” the lawyer said, referring to the penal colony,” her attorney Maria Blagovolina stated. “She should have waited until New Year’s Day.”
Prominently absent from the exchange was former U.S. Marine Paul Wheelan, who was detained in Moscow in 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in Russian penal colony in 2020.
The White House had been negotiating for the release of both Americans, but only managed to get Griner out.
“This was not a choice of which American to bring home,” President Biden remarked.
“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.”
Tom Pasquarello, the former DEA agent who helped bring down Bout is incensed about the decision to let the “Merchant of Death” go free.
“I’m kind of in disbelief that someone with the potential to orchestrate arms deals that can kill Americans anywhere in the world would be traded for a prisoner,” he commented.
Particularly because the United States couldn’t even secure a 2-for-1 deal for the notorious criminal, which he believes sends a bad message to other countries.
“We couldn’t even get two people for the world’s most notorious weapons trafficker, for a man who has been responsible for more carnage and blood diamonds and insurrections and threats to democracy than anyone else in the world,” said Pasquarello continued.
“How is that a negotiation? That’s like a free deal,” he explained.
“I think this sends a terrible message that the US will negotiate, that the US will make concessions and that, if an American is held overseas, there’s always the potential that the US will acquiesce to the demands of people like Putin and bail them out.”
The sentiment was echoed by Trump on his social media platform Truth Social.
The Trump Administration got 58 hostages released from various hostile countries without paying any money, or giving up anything,” he posted on Friday.
“That is something, both in numbers and lack of remuneration, that has never been done before in any other administration,” he continued.
“The America hating basketball player for the “Merchant of Death,” especially when the former Marine is not even included, is a one-sided disaster, and a BIG WIN FOR RUSSIA. If I made that deal the Dems would chant, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA!”
Whelan’s understandably “disappointed” to have been left behind.
“I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” he told CNN. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
“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,” Whelan went on.
“My bags are packed. I’m ready to go home. I just need an airplane to come and get me,” he said desperately.
Paul’s brother, David Whelan, supported the move to get Griner out of Russia, despite the Biden administration’s inability to free his sibling.
“I think to prolong the punishment of one American in a foreign hostage situation in the hope that you might be able to bring home two of them is absolutely the wrong call for the U.S. president to make,” he told CNN.
“An American in that situation who has a possibility of coming home… I think the U.S. president has to bring them home,” Whelan continued.
“And unfortunately for my brother and for our family, it’s not our family member, but I think from the perspective of Americans, that’s the right decision.”
According to the conditions of Bout’s release, he can never return to the United States, or receive any compensation related to any media, book, or movie deals about his ordeal, but he has already began speaking to the press.
Notably, 2005 Nicholas Cage starrer “Lord of War” was loosely based on Bout’s career as an international arms dealer. A movie which ironically ends with Cage’s character predicting his release from prison.
Bouttold a Russian state news outlet that the United States wants to “destroy” Russia, in a Friday interview with RT.
“The West believes that they did not finish us off in 1990, when the Soviet Union began to disintegrate… They think that they can just destroy us again and divide Russia,” he remarked.
Conservative actor Kevin Sorbo blasted the Biden administration for their decision to release Bout on Friday.
“I don’t want to hear anything about gun control from the left after they willingly freed an incredibly dangerous arms dealer,” he tweeted.