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Tipsheet

Oh, So That's Why Biden Took the Deal to Get a WNBA Star Out of Russia

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

As we’ve noted here, when it comes to The Art of the Deal, Biden doesn’t have it, which was painfully exposed when he pulled the trigger on a bad deal to get back WNBA star Brittney Griner who has been detained in Russia for months. In February, Griner was jailed on drug charges, with vape charges containing cannabis oil on her person. It was for medicinal purposes, but it’s illegal in Russia. A months-long legal circus carried allegations that the Biden White House either didn’t know or care that an American was being detained overseas. It also didn’t help that Griner’s detention occurred just as the Biden administration and the rest of the West slapped sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. 

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To complicate matters, a pre-arranged phone call between Griner and her wife, Cherelle, was botched when no one was at the front desk of our embassy in Russia to connect the call. It was on the couple’s anniversary, no less. The Biden administration did apologize for this oversight, citing staffing shortages on weekends, but this call was scheduled weeks in advance. It only added to the narrative that the Biden administration was incompetent, which isn’t necessarily a lie. Since then, Cherelle has been quite critical of how the Biden White House had handled this whole affair, especially since Donald Trump was able to get Lavar Ball’s son out of China when the latter was allegedly involved in a shopfitting incident there. 

With Christmas time upon us, Griner was released on the condition that arms dealer Viktor Bout, who also goes by the Merchant of Death, would be freed. That was the deal: an arms dealer for a black lesbian WNBA player. On its face, you can’t help but realize that Biden got played. 

The talking points from the White House are that this was the best offer. They decided to take it because this collection of officials who bathe in a putrid mix of mediocrity and ineptitude wanted this issue off the table. Joe Biden has been wrong about every significant foreign policy decision over the past 40 years—this was no exception. Did I want Griner out despite her atrocious political beliefs? Yes, she’s an American, but this is like selling the farm in the NFL draft to get JaMarcus Russell while having the foreknowledge that he was going to be one of the biggest busts in the history of professional football.

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The Biden administration’s new line appears we took the deal because this notorious arms dealer would be released from prison soon anyway. That's at least what John Kirby told Fox News' Shannon Bream (via RealClearPolitics):

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS: So, how will this administration answer the questions about why Marc Fogel and Paul Whelan were left behind?

KIRBY: We will, of course, cooperate fully with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. If there’s a need and desire for more information, we’ll be as forthcoming as we obviously can be. Of course, we respect the role of Congress. 

A couple of points here. Mr. Bout wasn't serving a life sentence, Shannon. He was going to get out in 2029. So, at some point in the not too distant future, he would have been a free man. It is six years earlier. 

Nobody over at the White House is doing back flips of joy that he is walking the streets. But this was the deal we could get. Now was the moment we could get it.

We’re obviously going to look after our national security going forward and Mr. Bout has choices to make. If he chooses to get back into that line of work and we’re going to do everything we can to hold him properly accountable as we have in the past. We did a national security assessment. We believe that whatever risk there is was manageable and okay to make this deal.

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So, this could be boiled down to three words: ‘meh, screw it.’ Am I reading that, right?

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