Former President Donald Trump says he turned down a deal to free former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was serving a long federal prison sentence in Illinois.
President Biden last week traded Bout for WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, who had been detained in Russia after authorities found cannabis-derived oil in his luggage at the airport in February.
The prisoner swap drew cheers for Ms Griner, but served as a reminder that Mr Whelan, being held on espionage charges the US says are bogus, remains in Russia.
Mr Trump said a ‘one-for-one swap’ for Mr Whelan in exchange for Bout, dubbed the ‘merchant of death’, would not have been balanced, so he rejected it.
“I wouldn’t have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone who killed countless people with his arms deals,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, the media platform social media he launched after being kicked out of Twitter.
Mr Trump added that he would have “taken Paul out, though”.
It’s unclear how Mr Biden will try to get Mr Whelan out, although the White House has pledged to keep trying.
Some Biden critics have said it was dangerous to let a notorious arms dealer return to Russia, given his track record and the precedent set by the swap.
Mr Trump claimed Ms Griner would not have been detained if he was still president.
“The Griner deal is crazy and bad,” the former president said. “The socket wouldn’t even have happened during my administration, but if it had, I would have gotten it out, fast!”