Former President Donald Trump claimed that he “would have gotten” former Marine Paul Whelan out of Russian custody even as he admitted that he turned down a deal to bring him home while in office, The Hill reports.
The Biden administration last week secured the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested 10 months ago for allegedly carrying THC vape cartridges in her luggage, in a prisoner exchange involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Trump on Truth Social attacked Biden over the deal.
"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. "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 later claimed that he "turned down a deal with Russia" to exchange Bout for Whelan.”
"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," he wrote. "I would have gotten Paul out, however, just as I did with a record number of other hostages. The deal for Griner is crazy and bad. The taking wouldn't have even happened during my Administration, but if it did, I would have gotten her out, fast!"
Hill pushes back:
Former White House national security official Fiona Hill told CBS News that Trump was “not particularly interested” in Whelan’s release while in office.
"At the particular time, I also have to say here that President Trump wasn't especially interested in engaging in that swap for also Paul Whelan. He was not particularly interested in Paul's case in the way that one would have thought he would be," she said.
Whelan’s brother rips Trump:
David Whelan hit out at Trump for mentioning his brother’s name more in response to Biden’s trade than he did in two years of his presidency.
"The Trump administration was not prepared to or not interested in working on wrongful detention cases," Whelan said told MSNBC.
"As far as I can tell, the State Department, the National Security Council, the White House, they are all 100% engaged on bringing Paul home," he continued. "I think what they have done is they've essentially run through the resources that they thought they might be able to get the Russians to accept as a concession. I mean, this is all about extortion. Paul was taken as a political prisoner and Russia is trying to extort something from the U.S."