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Former President Donald Trump has suggested that the proposed Russia-US prisoner swap that would return jailed WNBA star Britney Griner in exchange for a Russian arms dealer “does not appear to be a very good exchange”.
“She knew you weren’t going there loaded with drugs, and she admitted that,” Trump told The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show. “I guess she admitted it without too much force because that’s what it is, and it sure doesn’t sound like a very good job, does it? He’s absolutely one worst in the world, and he’s going to be released because a potentially spoiled person walks into Russia high on drugs.”
Trump was referring to reports that the US was trying to secure the release of Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as “Merchant of Death” because of its arms sales that have fueled deadly conflicts around the world.
“She came in there loaded with drugs in hostile territory where they are very vigilant about drugs,” Trump added. “They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now we’re supposed to get her out – and she’s making, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for a absolute duration killer and one of the largest arms dealers in the world. Killed many Americans. Killed many people.
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Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier this week that while the Kremlin and US officials have engaged in talks, “there has not yet been a concrete result.”
“We start from the principle that the interests of both parties must be taken into account during the negotiations,” she said.
Griner, WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested in Russia in February after customs officers found “vapes” containing hashish oil in his luggage at an airport near Moscow.
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Griner, who faces a potential 10-year prison sentence, pleaded guilty earlier this month in a decision that his legal team said was made to “take full responsibility for his actions.”
Former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also suggested earlier this week that the proposed prisoner swap was not a good idea.
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“He’s a bad guy. He’s a guy who wanted to kill Americans. This poses a real risk to the United States. There’s a real reason the Russians want to take him home. Offering an exchange like that -this is a dangerous precedent,” he added. Pompeo told America’s Newsroom.
“This is not a good trade, not the right way to go, and it will probably lead to more,” Pompeo added.
Russian officials have long pushed for the release of Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States after being convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to deliver anti-aircraft missiles and aid to a terrorist organization.
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He was arrested in 2008 during an undercover operation at a luxury hotel in Bangkok, Thailandwhere he met Drug Enforcement Administration informants posing as officials of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which have been classified by US officials as a narco-terrorist group.
Prosecutors said Bout was ready to provide the group with $20 million worth of “a breathtaking arsenal of weapons – including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles – 10 million rounds and five tons of plastic explosives”.
Fox News’ Joshua Q. Nelson contributed to this report.