News that President Biden negotiated a deal that released a Russian arms dealer called the “Merchant of Death” from a U.S. prison in exchange for an American basketball player imprisoned in Russia doesn’t set well with U. S. Sen. John Barrasso.
Barrasso, Wyoming’s senior senator, appeared on FOX News on Thursday morning and condemned the trade that allowed WNBA star Brittney Griner to come home in exchange for Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence for arms trafficking and who many have called a terrorist.
“I think it’s wrong,” Barrasso said. “President Joe Biden should have held out for a different result.”
One of those results, Barrasso said, would have been to wait until U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years, was on the trading block as well.
“This is a Russian play right out of their playbook,” he said. “Use American prisoners and then swap them for something of incredible value to them.”
Barrasso said he was glad to see Griner coming home, but it was “absolutely wrong” to leave Whelan there.
Barrasso wasn’t alone in his criticism of the exchange. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton said the swap was not a trade but “an American surrender.”
“This is not what American strength looks like. Terrorists and rogue states are smiling,” Bolton said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the exchange a “gift” to Vladimir Putin.
“It endangers American lives,” McCarthy said. “Leaving Paul Whelan behind for this is unconscionable.”
Meanwhile, others were pleased with the prisoner swap. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Congress and the U.S. were “overjoyed” at the news.
“Thanks to the committed & focused leadership of President Biden, Brittney Griner is finally free. Today, our hearts are with her dear wife, Cherelle, and the Griner family as their beloved Brittney is safely on her way back to America.”
Actor Rob Reiner called it a “wonderful rhyme.”
“Brittney Griner is released from prison and protection for marriage equality is passed in Congress. Brittney is now free to return home and free to be with the woman she loves,” Reiner said.