President Joe Biden took a victory lap at the White House Thursday morning as he announced the return of WNBA player Brittney Griner in exchange for Russian "Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout. Griner was held in a Russian prison for 10 months after being arrested and convicted for alleged possession of cannabis oil at the airport in February.
But former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan is still being held in a Russian prison and wasn't part of the deal. He's been in custody for five years.
Wait nah!! We left a marine?!! Hell nah https://t.co/3AeQx8K9OZ— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) December 8, 2022
Where is U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly held by Russia for far longer? Celebrities over veterans? https://t.co/v53aZbPqqm— Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) December 8, 2022
Any day that an American citizen is returning home is a good day. But, Joe Biden needs to answer why he made the decision to set free a Russian arms dealer and leave a US Marine rotting in jail. pic.twitter.com/WTlAK95owa— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) December 8, 2022
Brittney Griner being released in exchange for a convicted arms dealer.— Mayra Flores (@MayraFlores2022) December 8, 2022
What about Retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan?
Biden gave up a Russian arms dealer in exchange for an anti-American WNBA player, while leaving US Marine Paul Whelan to rot in a Russian prison. This is an abomination. Our country is run by incompetent scumbags.— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) December 8, 2022
The President traded a terrorist and arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death," who sold weapons intended to kill Americans, for a basketball player.— Marc Lotter (@marc_lotter) December 8, 2022
While a former US Marine rots in Russian custody.
Joe Biden's foreign policy is an embarrassment, feckless, and a disgrace! https://t.co/D1FCZtrN2f
So Biden traded a really really really bad guy for a basketball player ... and left behind an ex-Marine who's been held captive for four years.— The🐰FOO (@PolitiBunny) December 8, 2022
The Whelan family is devastated Paul was again left behind and says the situation is a hopeless "catastrophe" for the former Marine.
"I am so glad Brittney Griner is on her way home. As the family member of a Russian hostage, I can literally, only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holidays. There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home, The Biden administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to happen," David Whelan, Paul Whelan's brother released in a statement. "This time, US government officials let us know in advance Paul would be left behind [12/7/2022], unlike last April when they left him. That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a catastrophe for Paul."
"And now what? How do you continue to survive, day after day, when you know that your government has twice failed to free you from a foreign prison? I can't imagine he retains any hope that a government will negotiate his freedom at this point It's clear that the US government has no concessions that the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan. And so, Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes," he continued. "I think, as the use of wrongful detentions and hostage diplomacy continues around the globe, it's clear the US government needs to be more assertive. If bad actors like Russia are going to grab innocent Americans, the US needs a swifter, more direct response, and to be prepared in advance."