Lee Heidhues 12.11.2022
A man who professed himself to be a master at The Art of the Deal wasn’t interested in making it happen when an American citizen’s freedom was at stake.
It’s no surprise that during the period Donald Trump was still President (2018 – 2021) he refused to seriously negotiate for the release of American Paul Whelan from Russian custody.
Whelan was arrested and convicted on sham “espionage” charges in 2018. He is serving a 10 year sentence in Russia.
Whelan’s case surfaced prominently in recent weeks as negotiations which resulted in the exchange of professional basketball All-star Brittney Griner for convicted Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout made headline news.
Griner was detained with a small amount of marijuana oil last February in Moscow and after a bogus legal proceeding was sentenced to nine years in prison.
In the end it was only Griner who was released by the Russians prompting an outpouring of fury from political foes of President Biden and some people in law enforcement familiar with the prosecution of arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Now, Donald Trump is saying he never would have exchanged Paul Whelan for Viktor Bout.
People who worked with and are close to Trump speak of a different reality. He wasn’t interested.
Excerpted from The Hill 12.11.2022
Former President Trump on Sunday said he turned down a deal to release former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who’s been detained by Moscow since 2018, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout during his time in the White House.
“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,” Trump said on Truth Social.
David Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother, has accused the Trump administration of not appearing “interested in” the case.
“I think the first two years, partly I think the Trump administration was not prepared to or not interested in working on wrongful detention cases,” David Whelan said Saturday on MSNBC.
Former Trump White House national security official Fiona Hill said Sunday that the deal to swap Bout for Whelan was a possibility while Trump was in office.
“At the particular time, I also have to say here that President Trump wasn’t especially interested in engaging in that swap for also Paul Whelan. He was not particularly interested in Paul’s case in the way that one would have thought he would be,” Hill said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” with Margaret Brennan.
Bout was released last week in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who spent about 10 months in Russian custody.
Trump criticized the deal soon after news broke of Griner’s release, saying Whelan should have been freed instead.
The Biden administration has said Russia was unwilling to include Whelan in a swap for Bout.
Trump said Sunday that, although he turned down the deal with Moscow, he “would have gotten Paul out,” though didn’t explain why he wasn’t able to do so.
“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!” Trump said.
Top photo – Paul Whelan. Still incarcerated Russia. Convicted of sham espionage charges in 2018. Serving a 10 year prison sentence.