White House Admits Griner Swap Encourages Adversaries Imprisoning Americans

When asked about concerns over the Biden administration’s prisoner swap — in which they traded a WNBA star for the notorious Russian arms dealer dubbed the “merchant of death” — potentially incentivizing the abduction or imprisonment of Americans to get concessions, White House NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby stated that “to some degree… that ship has sailed.”

WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested in February for possession of cannabis oil in Russia and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The Biden administration traded her freedom for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans, to supply anti-aircraft missiles, and of aiding a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, retired Marine Paul Whelan — who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison in 2018 on “espionage” charges that he denies — remains in prison.

Many critics of the Biden administration’s decision have expressed concern that the prisoner swap will incentivize hostile foreign actors to imprison Americans in order to make similar deals.

During a Thursday appearance on Fox News Channel’s “The Story,” Kirby essentially suggested that there was no other way to get Griner home, other than to acquiesce to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands.

“But just in general, John, about this kind of policy of letting people go who are dangerous in order to get Americans back, does it not encourage more abductions, more taking prisoners in order to use them to get these people back?” host Martha MacCallum asked.

“To some degree, Martha, that ship has sailed,” Kirby replied. “I mean, this is not a new tactic for Mr. Putin, this idea of wrongfully detaining Americans in return for — to try to get somebody else back or to get some other concession. This is part of Mr. Putin’s playbook. So, we made this calculation.”

“It was a tough decision, but it was a better decision than doing nothing,” he claimed. “Because it was either get Brittney out using Mr. Bout or get nobody out. And I think we could all agree that it’s better to have Brittney Griner soon on American soil rather than spending years and years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit.”