Former President Donald Trump suggested that the proposed prisoner swap between Russia and the United States that would return jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for a Russian arms dealer “doesn’t seem like a very good trade.”
“She knew you don’t go in there loaded up with drugs, and she admitted it,” Trump told the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show. “I assume she admitted it without too much force because it is what it is, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a very good trade, does it? He’s absolutely one of the worst in the world, and he’s gonna be given his freedom from him because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs.
Trump was referring to reports that the United States is attempting to secure the release of Griner, and former US Marine Paul Whelan, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout who is known as the “Merchant of Death” due to his weapons sales that fueled deadly conflicts around the world.
“She went in there loaded up with drugs into a hostile territory where they’re very vigilant about drugs,” Trump added. “They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now we’re supposed to get her out of her — and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. She killed many Americans. She killed many people.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier this week that while the Kremlin and US officials have engaged in talks, “there has been no concrete result yet.”
“We proceed from the assumption that the interests of both parties should be taken into account during the negotiations,” she said.
Griner, a WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested in Russia in February after customs officers found “vapes” containing hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
Griner, who faces a potential 10-year prison sentence, pleaded guilty earlier this month in a move her legal team says was made to “take full responsibility for her actions.”
Former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also suggested earlier this week that the proposed prisoner swap is not a good idea.
“He’s a bad guy. He is a guy who wanted to kill Americans. It presents a real risk to the United States. There’s a real reason the Russians want to get him home. To offer a trade like this is a dangerous precedent,” Pompeo told “America’s Newsroom.”
“This is not a good trade, not the right path forward, and it’ll likely lead to more,” Pompeo added.
Russian officials have long pushed for the release of Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence in US prison after being convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to deliver anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization.
He was nabbed in 2008 in a sting operation at a luxury hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, where he met with Drug Enforcement Administration informants who were posing as officials with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has been classified by US officials as a narco- terrorist group.
Prosecutors said that Bout was prepared to provide the group with $20 million worth of “a breathtaking arsenal of weapons — including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles — 10 million rounds of ammunition and five tons of plastic explosives.”