Trump says he rejected Russian deal to trade Paul Whelan for Victor Boyut
Former President Donald Trump said Sunday he had previously rejected an attempt by Russia to trade with ‘Merchant of Death’ arms dealer Victor Booth for former US Marine Paul Whalen — insisting he would never release someone who had “killed untold numbers.”
“I turned down a deal with Russia for a one-for-one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul Whelan,” Trump, 76, said in a post on Truth Social.
“I wouldn’t make the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone who has killed untold numbers of people with his gun deals.”
Booth, who was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to kill Americans by supplying weapons to a Colombian terrorist group, was released last week in exchange for return of WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian forced labor camp after authorities found vape boxes containing cannabis oil in her suitcase when she arrived in Moscow in February.
After the exchange of senior officials, Trump immediately attacked the Biden administration, saying that Whelan – who has been detained in Russia on espionage charges since 2018 – should have been sent back to the US instead of Greener.
U.S. officials said they tried to secure the release of both Whelan and Greiner, but Russia refused to budge – insisting that Greiner be exchanged for Booth.
Despite scuttling the Whelan-Bout swap during his time in the White House, Trump insisted Sunday that he “would have gotten Paul out” anyway.
“The Greener deal is crazy and bad. The impeachment wasn’t even going to happen during my administration, but if it did, I would get her out fast!” Trump wrote, without elaborating.
A senior Biden administration official insisted last week that Moscow was still open to discussing a possible future release of Whelan, claiming that Russia “has things it wants in this world.”
A little after Griner returned to Texas on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin also suggested that more prisoner exchanges were possible.
Putin said “everything is possible” when asked about future deals, noting that “compromises have been found” for the Bout-Griner exchange.
“We do not refuse to continue this work in the future,” the Russian strongman added.
It comes after former national security adviser John Bolton told CBS last week that the Biden administration’s deal with Russia was a “capitulation.”
“This is not a deal. This is not an exchange. It’s a capitulation,” Bolton said.
“And terrorists and rogue states around the world will take note of this, and it endangers other Americans in the future who can be grabbed and used as bargaining chips by people who don’t have the same morals and scruples as we do.”
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