Former President Donald Trump slammed Thursday's prisoner exchange that freed U.S. women's basketball star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison, calling it an "unpatriotic embarrassment."
President Joe Biden signed off on the deal to free Griner, who was sent to a Russian penal colony after being convicted of drug possession in August and exchanged for Russian arms trafficker and terrorist Viktor Bout, known as "The Merchant of Death."
Left behind in Russia was Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine veteran arrested in 2018 and sentenced in 2020 on espionage charges. The U.S. considers Whelan wrongfully detained.
Experts say Trump refused to give up a Russian who sought to arm terrorists to kill Americans in a swap for Whelan. Also, Democrats during the 2020 presidential campaign once tried to accuse Trump of doing what Bout was convicted of having done, but Trump denounced that as a Russian disinformation campaign that Democrats fell for.
"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 on his Truth Social account.
He was referencing Griner's stance at the height of the George Floyd protests, saying the national anthem should not be played at WNBA games and vowing to walk off the court if it was.
"Why wasn't former Marine Paul Whelan included in this totally one-sided transaction?" Trump wrote. "He would have been let out for the asking. What a "stupid" and unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA!!!"
The Biden administration said because of the nature of the espionage charges against Whelan, Russia treated his case differently than Griner's.
"When you're trading the 'Merchant of Death' ... you should at least bring home at least more than one American," Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., told Newsmax on Thursday, adding the Biden White House "prioritized" Griner over Whelan and another detained American, history teacher Marc Fogel.
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