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Trump says he turned down Paul Whelan’s release deal

Former President Trump said on Sunday he had turned down a deal to release former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, held by Moscow since 2018, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout while he was in the White House.

“I refused an agreement with Russia for an individual exchange of the so-called death dealer for Paul Whelan. I would not have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone who killed a number countless people with his arms deals,” Trump said on Truth Social.

Bout was released last week in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who spent about 10 months in Russian custody.

Trump criticized the deal shortly after Griner’s release was announced, saying Whelan should have been released instead.

The Biden administration has said Russia is unwilling to include Whelan in a trade for Bout.

Trump said on Sunday that although he refused the deal with Moscow, he “would have gotten Paul out,” but did not explain why he was unable to do so.

“The Griner deal is crazy and bad. The take wouldn’t even have happened during my administration, but if it did, I would have gotten him out, fast!” Trump said.

Former Trump White House national security chief Fiona Hill said on Sunday that Bout’s swap deal for Whelan was a possibility while Trump was in office.

“At the time, I also have to say here that President Trump was not particularly interested in engaging in this trade for Paul Whelan. He wasn’t particularly interested in Paul’s case as one might think,” Hill said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” with Margaret Brennan.

David Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother, also accused the Trump administration of not appearing “interested” in the case.

“I think the first two years, I think in part, the Trump administration was either unprepared or uninterested in working on wrongful detention cases,” David Whelan said on MSNBC on Saturday.

“The Biden administration is much more committed to wrongful detentions,” he added.

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