Former President Donald Trump is claiming that he “turned down a deal” with Russia to receive captive American Paul Whelan in exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, whom President Biden ultimately swapped last week for WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Paul Whelan has been in Russian custody for over four years at a labor camp in Russia’s Mordovia republic. In 2018, while President Trump was in office, the Marine veteran was arrested and convicted on charges of espionage and spying for the U.S. government, facing up to 16 years in prison.
“I turned down a deal with Russia for a one on one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul Whelan,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social account Sunday night, referencing Bout’s nickname. “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”
“I would have gotten Paul out, however, just as I did with a record number of other hostages. The deal for Griner is crazy and bad,” Trump also said. “The taking wouldn’t have even happened during my Administration, but if it did, I would have gotten her out, fast!”
Fox News Digital has reached out to the U.S. State Department for further comment.
Trump previously called the Griner-Bout swap “stupid” and “unpatriotic” in a post on Truth Social.
But Paul’s brother David Whelan hit back at President Trump for his comments, arguing his attitude is “disappointing” from a former president.
“I think that what President Biden did was to take care of an American who was in peril and bring home the American that he could bring home. So it’s disappointing that a former president would have that sort of perspective,” Whelan told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto.
Fox News’ Madeline Coggins contributed to this report.