(Molly Bruns, Headline USA) White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre showered praise and adoration on WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was recently released from a Russian prison in exchange for a known arms dealer and terrorist.
“President Biden keeps his promises and today he fulfilled a deeply important promise to bring Brittney Griner home to a family that loves her, a team that misses her, and a country that has marveled at her strength and courage,” Jean-Pierre said.
“Throughout her ordeal, we saw Brittney, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for team USA, demonstrate strength, courage, and dignity,” she added. “As the president said this morning, she represents the best of America.”
According to the Daily Wire, Jean-Pierre explained that the Biden administration endured months of “painstaking negotiations” in order to secure Griner’s release.
“She should never have been detained by Russia,” Jean-Pierre added. “And we are, I am, deeply proud of the work that the president has done, this administration has done, to get her home.”
When asked why Griner’s release was orchestrated as opposed to former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, Jean-Pierre claimed “the choice became to either bring Brittney home or no one.”
Karine Jean-Pierre on why the White House was able to bring Griner home but not former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan:
“Unfortunately, the choice became to either bring Brittney home or no one.”
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) December 8, 2022
The Pentagon was less thrilled about the exchange.
The U.S. government arranged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to be swapped for Griner, who was imprisoned on drug charges for bringing marijuana into Russia.
Bout, who is also known as the “Merchant of Death,” was serving a 25-year prison sentence for conspiracy, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles and aiding a terrorist organization, Politico reported.
“I think there is a concern that [he] would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past,” said one senior Defense Department official, who spoke to Politico on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.
Bout supplied weapons to conflicts across Africa and Afghanistan, fueling civil wars across the regions.
“If I didn’t do it, someone else would,” Bout told the New Yorker in 2012.
The part he played in the second Liberian civil war resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people and devastated the country.
“We cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision,” Senator Bob Mendez said in a statement.
“We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention.”