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GOP Lawmaker: Biden Aiding ‘Both Sides of the War’ Freeing Viktor Bout

Paul Bois, Breitbart

President Joe Biden has come under intense pressure to free former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan after he swapped Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, a.k.a. the “Merchant of Death,” for WNBA star Brittney Griner.

While the Biden administration has celebrated the release of Brittney Griner, some Republican lawmakers believe that Viktor Bout had committed crimes far too great to warrant the swap. As Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK) said, Biden may have aided “both sides of the war” between Russia and Ukraine, suggesting that Bout could return to his illegal arms trading to help Vladimir Putin.

Former President Donald Trump made headlines this past weekend when he said he rejected a deal from Russia to trade Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned on espionage charges, for Viktor Bout.

“I turned down a deal with Russia for a one-on-one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul Whelan. I wouldn’t have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone that has killed untold numbers of people with his arms deals,” Trump said on Truth Social.

As noted by the Hill, Paul Whelan’s brother, David, lauded the Biden administration for appearing “much more engaged in wrongful detentions” than the Trump administration.

“The business with the former president, basically saying he turned down an offer to bring back Paul, was a surprise and not a welcome one,” Elizabeth Whelan, Paul’s sister, told the Hill.

“We have to really deal with the here and now. For whatever it’s worth, many different administrations have had Americans kept overseas… and you just have to deal with whoever’s in office at the moment. We’re fortunate that right now we have a lot of commitment from this administration to bring Paul home and that’s where we’re focusing our energy,” she added.

The Biden administration has defended the swap by claiming that Bout poses no further security risk to the United States. However, Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told the Hill that Bout could easily become “a threat down the line.”

“So it’s possible that given the fact he’s just an amoral character who basically will sell arms or work with basically anyone, he could work with terrorist groups, and that is a risk,” Ramani said.

John Hardie, deputy director of the Russia Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that the swap could further embolden Russia and other governments to take Americans hostage in order to free more prisoners.

“There will be no shortage [of people] that Moscow wants to get back in years to come. I do worry that playing this hostage negotiation game will incentivize them to keep doing it on their end,” said Hardie.