Trump Says He Turned Down Deal To Trade Paul Whelan For ‘Merchant Of Death’


Diana Glebova White House Correspondent
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Former President Donald Trump said Sunday that he refused to trade Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death,” for Paul Whelan.

The Biden administration traded basketball star Brittney Griner for Bout on Thursday, bringing Griner home after being detained in Russia for over nine months over cannabis cartridges in her luggage. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested in Russia in December of 2018 and received a 16-year prison sentence in 2020 over accusations of spying.

The Biden administration has said that they were in negotiations to bring both Americans home, but that the Russians said they were only willing to trade Griner. (RELATED: ‘Paul Was Never In The Mix’: Biden Official Says Whelan Had No Chance Of Being Released)

“I turned down a deal with Russia for a one on one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul
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. I would have gotten Paul out, however, just as I did with a record number of other hostages,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

“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!” he added.

Paul Whelan, a former US marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside a defendants’ cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow on June 15, 2020. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Bout was convicted of conspiring to sell arms to communist guerrillas in 2011 in Colombia and is serving 25 years in federal prison.

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Thursday on CBS that the Bout-Whelan trade possibility existed under the Trump administration, but that it didn’t go forth “for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout.”

Bolton called the Griner swap a “very bad mistake by the Biden administration,” and said that the trade is a “surrender.”

“This is not a deal. This is not a swap. This is a surrender,” Bolton added. “And terrorists and rogue states all 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 that we do.”

Whelan’s family issued a statement after Griner was traded for Bout, saying they were”devastated” that Whelan was not included in the trade.

“Our family is still devastated,” Whelan’s brother, David, said in a statement. “I can’t even fathom how Paul will feel when he learns … his hopes had soared with the knowledge that the U.S. government was taking concrete steps for once toward his release.”