Ex-President Donald Trump does not think that exchanging the arms dealer labeled as the ‘Merchant of Death’ in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner is a ‘very good trade.’
During an appearance on Saturday on ‘The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show,’ Trump said of Griner: ‘She knew you don’t go in there loaded up with drugs, and she admitted it.’
He continued: ‘I assume she admitted it without too much force because it is what it is, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a very good trade, does it?’
Turning to the Merchant of Death aka arms dealer Viktor Bout, Trump said: ‘He’s absolutely one of the worst in the world, and he’s gonna be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs.’
Trump also described Bout as receiving a ‘free card’ as a result of the potential trade.
Trump went on: ‘She went in there loaded up with drugs into a hostile territory where they’re very vigilant about drugs.
‘They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now we’re supposed to get her out — and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. Killed many Americans. Killed many people,’ the former president continued.
Trump described arms dealer Viktor Bout as ‘absolutely one of the worst in the world’
Trump said of Griner’s arrest: ‘They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now we’re supposed to get her out — and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. Killed many Americans. Killed many people.’
It was already widely reported that that the Russian government wanted the US to release Viktor Bout in exchange for citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Griner was arrested in February in Moscow’s airport after vapes containing hash oil were found in her luggage. The Olympic gold medalist has pleaded guilty to the crime. She faces 10 years in prison.
Whelan, an Iraq War veteran who was enlisted in the Marine Corps, was arrested in Russia in 2018 and accused of being a spy. The former police officer and sheriff’s deputy was in the country to attend the wedding of a fellow Marine veteran.
He was sentenced to 16 years in prison that includes time in a labor camp.
While Bout was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill American citizens. He is currently serving 25 years in prison.
Russian officials have not said just how many vape cartridges of hashish oil Griner is accused of attempting to smuggle into Russia.
Her lawyers maintain that she has a prescription for the drug and that she mistakenly included them in her luggage.
Hashish oil has a high level of THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
The day before Trump’s comments, comedian Bill Maher joked on his HBO show that if the former president is indicted by the Department of Justice of his role in the January 6 Capitol riot: ‘We put Trump in jail and then trade him to Russia for Brittney Griner.’
Russian national Viktor Bout was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill American citizens. He is currently serving 25 years in prison
Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed the former Apprentice host’s sentiments in an interview with Fox News this week.
Pompeo said: ‘He’s a bad guy. He is a guy who wanted to kill Americans. It presents a real risk to the United States. There’s a real reason the Russians want to get him home. To offer a trade like this is a dangerous precedent.’
He continued: ‘This is not a good trade, not the right path forward, and it’ll likely lead to more.’
One of Trump’s major supporters in the media, conservative firebrand Tomi Lahren agrees with Pompeo.
She tweeted this week: ‘Wait wait we are exchanging a Russian arms dealer, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death’ for Brittney Griner?! This is Bowe Bergdahl all over again. RIDICULOUS!’
Ohio GOP Congressman Jim Jordan tweeted in June: ‘Everyone knows President Trump would have negotiated Brittney Griner’s release by now.’
This was mocked by US citizen Trevor Reed, who was freed by the Russian government in April 2022. Reed replied to Jordan’s tweet: ‘Yeah big thanks to President Trump for getting myself and Paul Whelan out. Not.’
The official Republican Judiciary Committee Twitter account retweeted an article in which Griner’s coach Vanessa Nygaard said: ‘If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?’
The committee Twitter account wrote in the retweet: ‘If this were Trump, she’d be home.’ Rep. Jordan is the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.
The Kremlin reportedly wants to add another killer to the deal that would grant freedom to Griner and Whelan.
According to a new report from CNN the Russians also want convicted FSB operative and hitman Vadim Krasikov thrown into the deal.
In 2019, Krasikov murdered Chechen spy Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in broad daylight in a public park in Berlin, Germany.
Krasikov was sentenced to life in prison in Germany this past December.
The CNN report notes that because this request made through an informal channel, US officials do not ‘view it as a legitimate counter’ offer for Griner and Whelan’s freedom.
A German government source confirmed to CNN that US officials have reached out to their counterparts in Berlin to discuss the possibility of releasing Krasikov.
This report has not been confirmed by the State Department with a spokesman telling CNN: ‘In order to preserve the best opportunity for a successful outcome, we’re not going to comment publicly on any speculation.’
‘The Merchant of Death:’ Who is Viktor Bout?
Viktor Bout, gestures as he leaves the criminal court, in Bangkok, Thailand, 11 August 2009
Viktor Bout, 54, has been imprisoned in the US since 2012 when he was convicted on charges of supplying weapons to a designated State Department terrorist group.
Around the time of Brittney Griner’s May court hearing, the Russian state news agency TASS began reporting that officials were looking to swap Griner for Bout.
In November 2011, Bout was convicted in federal court in the US of distributing weapons to a State Department designated terrorist organization, namely FARC in Colombia. He was sentenced in April 2012.
Bout was found guilty of supplying 100 surface-to-air missiles to the group. He was first arrested in Thailand in 2008 and was later extradited to the US.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison as a result. The TASS report in May referred to Bout as a ‘businessman.’ A source told the agency: ‘Currently, talks are underway on exchanging Bout for Griner.’
Bout is being held in USP Marion in Marion, Illinois.
Since his incarceration, Bout has been linked to prisoner swaps for US citizens such a Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan.
Whelan’s brother told The Guardian in May that Russian officials told him that they hoped to swap Whelan for Bout.
Bout was the inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character in the 2005 movie ‘Lord of War’
Bout was the inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character in 2005 movie ‘Lord of War.’
According to a ScreenRant feature on the movie, Bout also went by the nickname ‘Sanction Buster’ as he used his air freight business Air Cess to deft international law.
The article adds that the movie was endorsed by Amnesty International after its release because of its accurate depiction of the lucrative international arms trade.
The piece goes on to mention that Bout’s supporters regard him as an environmentalist who is deeply concerned with preserving the rainforest.
In addition to his activities in Colombia, Bout is accused of selling weapons to groups such as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban as well as with disgraced former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
Bout’s wife, Alla, displayed a collection of her husband’s paintings in Moscow in December 2021, reports The Art Newspaper.
Alla told the outlet that her husband was suffering from a serious infectious condition and that he has been refused proper medical care.
Bout has one child with his wife.
Alla said of her husband’s art work: ‘The exhibition proves that my husband has not lost heart and is still creative. His art is the only way he can communicate with the outside world.’
A former US intel officer, Rebekah Koffer, warned that releasing Bout could set a dangerous precedent
Trevor Reed endorsed the idea of swapping Bout for Griner or Whelan in an interview with ‘Good Morning America’ saying: ‘I don’t care if it’s 100 Viktor Bouts. They have to get our guys out.’
A former US intel officer, Rebekah Koffer, warned that releasing Bout could set a dangerous precedent, reports Fox News.
Koffer argued that any exchange involving Bout would only tempt Putin to kidnap other Americans in the hopes that he could exchange them for Russian assets.
Prior to his conviction, a 2010 Newsweek feature suggested that he had ties to high-ranking Russian officials.
Following his arrest, the Russian government described Bout’s case as ‘political.’