Ariana Garcia, Houston Chronicle
Former President Donald Trump has seemingly sided with Russia on WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner’s detainment. During an appearance on the ” Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” podcast on Friday, Trump criticized a rumored deal circulating Russian media outlets claiming the U.S. has been in talks to trade Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer currently in U.S. prison, for the return of Griner and Russian-held U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
For the past six months, Griner, a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and seven-time WNBA All-Star, has been detained in Russia for allegedly transporting cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. The Houston native has pleaded guilty to the charges but said she had no criminal intent, explaining to a Russian court last week that the cannabis was prescribed to her as a painkiller for her injuries.
The 31-year-old basketball player’s trial is ongoing, but if convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison. Whelan has been jailed in Russia on espionage charges since 2018.
“She knew you don’t go there loaded up with drugs, and she admitted it,” Trump said on the show Friday. “I assumed 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? [Bout is] 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 continued his exaggeration of Griner’s arrest, saying: “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.”
Bout, a 55-year-old former Soviet military officer known by some as the “Merchant of Death,” is currently serving a 25-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to parties with alleged plans to kill Americans.
In April, the Biden administration successfully conducted a prisoner swap with Russia for U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for the U.S. handing over Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced in 2011 for drug smuggling. Reed has frequently spoken out in support of Griner and Whelan following his release, demanding the White House to do more to bring them home.
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