Biden Offers to Swap ‘Merchant of Death’ for WNBA Player

The Biden administration has proposed returning convicted arms merchant Viktor Bout to Russia in exchange for the release of detained Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, according to a report Wednesday.

“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official told CNN. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby declined to confirm or deny Wednesday that the potential swap involved Bout.

Known as the “Merchant of Death,” Bout is serving 25 years in a US prison after he was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill Americans, providing aid to a terrorist organization, and other charges.

According to CNN, President Biden has come around to support an exchange for Bout after months of internal debate, overriding opposition by the Justice Department.

The official said it was up to Russia to respond to the proposed swap, “yet at the same time that does not leave us passive, as we continue to communicate the offer at very senior levels.”

“It takes two to tango. We start all negotiations to bring home Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained with a bad actor on the other side. We start all of these with somebody who has taken a human being American and treated them as a bargaining chip,” the person added. “So in some ways, it’s not surprising, even if it’s disheartening, when those same actors don’t necessarily respond directly to our offers, don’t engage constructively in negotiations.”

Blinken said Wednesday he will soon meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The secretary said he would “raise an issue that’s a top priority for us — the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who’ve been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home. We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal.”

“I can’t and won’t get into any of the details of what we proposed to the Russians over the course of so many weeks now,” Blinken added.

“We’ve conveyed this [offer] on a number of occasions, and directly to Russian officials. And my hope would be that in speaking to Foreign Minister Lavrov, I can advance the efforts to bring them home.”

Kirby said later Wednesday that talks about the potential swap were “actively happening now” but wouldn’t elaborate on whether the discussions involved releasing Bout, saying “details are best left between us and our Russian counterparts.”

“We certainly hope that Russia will favorably engage on it,” Kirby added of Washington’s offer.  

Griner, a star of the WNBA, has been locked up in Russia since February on drug possession charges, to which she pleaded guilty earlier this month. Whelan, a former US Marine, is serving a 16-year sentence after being arrested in Moscow on espionage charges in 2018.

Families and friends of the two Americans have ramped up pressure on the White House to secure their release. Biden recently spoke by phone with Griner’s wife and Whelan’s sister to update them on the administration’s efforts to free their relatives. 

Trevor Reed, another former US Marine who was released from Russian prison in March, told NBC News Tuesday that he felt the White House was “not doing enough” to spring Griner and Whelan.

“There’s two Americans who are sitting in there for nothing,” Reed said, “and you know, if it takes letting go of an actual criminal, who has already sat in American prison for I think, almost twenty years you know, that seems like it’s worth it to me.”

Steve Zissou, Bout’s lawyer, has said Russia sees securing the release of the former Soviet military officer as a high priority and suggested the Kremlin might be amenable to a swap.

“It has been communicated to the American side very clearly that they’re going to have to get real on Viktor Bout if they expect any further prisoner exchanges,” Zissou told the New York Times earlier this month. “My sense of this is that no American is going home unless Viktor Bout is sent home with them.”

This is a developing story.

Original Article: White House pitches Russia on Griner, Whelan swap for arms dealer Bout (nypost.com)

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17 comments

  1. OH SURE REAL SMART DUMBASSES LET GO A KILLER OF AMERICANS…. THIS WOULDN’T BE HAPPENING IF YOU DAMM DEMO-RATS HADN’T STOLE THE ELECTION AND THE REAL PRESIDENT WAS IN OFFICE PRESIDENT DONALD J TRUMP….

    • Biden and his moronic crew are nothing shy of being imbecile’s they are clueless and very dangerous to the American people why republicans haven’t impeached him yet over his dealings with his crackhead son is beyond me

    • I’m independent but yes you’re right it wouldn’t because Donald Rump prejudice $&@! Is a sack of shy&! that keeps his head up the Russians ass because he enjoys their women. Nobody stole the election so get over that! Our black people that you guys thought were oh so illiterate and didn’t know or deserve the right got tired and voiced their opinions by voting just as the backwood KKK did when they wanted Donald Rump into office…so please calm down you racist prick😂😂😂😂

  2. Brian Richard Allen

    The Mighty united States of America offers to trade an already-plead-guilty wannabe illicit drug smuggler, for a manifestation-of-evil arms trader?

    And anyone wonders that the imbecilic, pedophilic, definitively-corrupt and deep-into-his-dotage dullard presently pretending to be “president,” can neither claim to have ever been elected to national office — nor prove it so.

  3. Great move trade a known killer for a Id10t who hates the US. What’s wrong with this picture??

    • Guess this demented idiot has taken a page from Oblamer when he traded 5 top Taliban leaders for a coward and traitor.
      Keep the bitch in jail for breaking your laws. Remember, ignorance is no excuse to break any law!

  4. that makes sense trade a merchant of death for a US hating dissident, What is wrong with this picture??

  5. Why is it none of these decisions ever seem to be presented to the people of this country and a vote taken? This is B.S. !!!!

  6. Bemused Berserker

    Question. Will Griner face any consequences for her stupidity if she’s exchanged? Because as far as I’m concerned, she still committed a crime. She was warned about taking any contraband with her, yet in her arrogance chose to believe the rules didn’t apply to her.
    If she’s not going to do any time for her crime, I’m opposed to the exchange.

  7. This is total BS Griner smuggled cannabis oil into Russia and deserves to be locked up I hope Russia tells the U S NOWAY

    • Amen. I agree she hates America and she deserves to be left in a china prison till she ROTS she is a low life traitors that doesn’t deserve any help to get free stay in prison till you ROT you parasite

  8. Do you think this narcissistic, stupid, self important person that showed her attitude toward authority will show a moment of contrition for allowing a dangerous criminal to go free in order to obtain her freedom. Do think she will show gratitude for this country trying to help her. Do you think you’ll hear a word of apology for what getting her release has allowed.

  9. Griner votes Democrat, this makes her a VIP.

  10. As usual the Democrats running this country into the ground are doing it again. Afghanistan brain fart and now arms dealer will who startup again for the too bit tattooed whiney b***h. Please russian keep her and give us just the retired marine.

  11. Let her rot.

  12. Whelan for sure. Brittney hot peesa ass. Bring her back, I convert her to the path of sexing righteousness with my special God given gift

  13. SHE should not be allowed to come back into our country she should ROTT IN THEIR PRISON as she HATES AMERICA DOESNT WANT THE AMERICAN ATHMEN OR THE PLEDGE BEING READ OR SANG LET HER ROTT SHES AN UNGRATEFULL HATEFULL SELFISH INDIVIDUAL ROTT IN PRISON thats what she deserves

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