During a White House press briefing on Thursday, Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy asked Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about the prisoner swap with Russia between WNBA player Brittney Griner and convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, and said, "why did Russia get such a better deal?"
"Look, you know, I've talked about this. And I'll say this again. Here were our choices. Our choices was Brittany, or no one at all, bring home one American or no American at all. And that's that," Jean-Pierre said. Doocy replied, "They gave up a professional athlete. We gave up a prolific arms dealer who was convicted of trying to kill Americans, who was called the 'Merchant of Death'."
In the spring the Biden administration offered to swap Griner and Paul Whelan, a US Marine veteran who has been in Russian custody since 2018, for Bout. On Thursday, the Biden administration arranged a one-to-one prisoner swap with Bout and Griner.
The New York Post said in July that trading Bout for Griner and Whelan would be a "blunder" as Bout supplied weapons to "the most vicious warlords in the world," helped the Taliban take power in Afghanistan, and enabled "murderous groups to kidnap and train thousands of child soldiers," whom he taught to use rape and torture as methods of war.
Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession charges related to cannabis oil and on August 4 she was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony.
"The professional athlete is also an American citizen. So let's not forget that," Jean-Pierre said.
Doocy then mentioned Whelan, who is still detained and serving a 16 year sentence for alleged espionage.
"I've explained how the Russians have illegally treated, totally legitimately treated his situation," she said. "I've been very clear on that."
"And, again, the President felt that this was an opportunity to bring Brittany home, he is going to continue to do everything he can to bring Paul Whelan home just like he did with Trevor Reed," she added.According to NBC News, Whelan's family was frustrated at the Biden administration in April over Trevor Reed's release, as they felt it was another missed opportunity to bring their family member home.
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