Bolton blasts Griner prisoner swap with Russia: 'Huge victory for Moscow'

"This is not a deal. This is not a swap. This is a surrender."

Updated: December 8, 2022 - 6:31pm

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Former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton excoriated the Biden administration for trading a notorious arms dealer to Russia in order to secure the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner.

"This is a huge victory for Moscow over Washington," Bolton said in a Thursday appearance on CBS. "And it's the kind of thing that says to terrorists and rogue states and other malign actors who would consider kidnapping or seizing Americans, that we're willing to trade almost anything to get Americans back."

The Biden administration on Thursday secured Griner's release by trading Viktor Bout, aka the "merchant of death," one of the most prolific arms dealers in the world. Bolton asserted that the opportunity to trade Bout for imprisoned American Paul Whelan had existed during the Trump administration, but that the White House had not wanted to surrender Bout to the Kremlin.

"I'll just note the historical fact that the possibility of a Bout for Whelan trade existed back then, and it wasn't made, for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout," he said.

Bolton further characterized the administration as "desperate" to secure a deal with Moscow on the prisoner swap and asserted that the trade was a one-sided exchange.

"This is not a deal. This is not a swap. This is a surrender," he asserted.

Russia arrested Griner on drug trafficking charges after she brought marijuana into the country during a trip with her WNBA team. Meanwhile, American Paul Whelan remains in Russian custody on espionage charges, which has prompted criticism of the Biden administration for not securing his release.

Speaking to CNN in a phone interview, Whelan himself expressed disappointment that the U.S. government had not yet secured his own freedom. 

"I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred," he said. "I don't understand why I'm still sitting here."

Whelan was arrested in December 2018, while Griner was detained on Feb. 17, 2022, exactly one week before the start of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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