Democrat President Joe Biden has reportedly offered to exchange notorious Russian weapons trafficker Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of WBNA player Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
CNN reported that several sources inside the administration said that the proposal received Biden’s “backing” after he was briefed on the matter.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official told CNN. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”
Bout, who is often referred to as the “Merchant of Death,” is a notorious arms trafficker who inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie “Lord of War.”
Bout was convicted on terrorism charges back in 2011 for trying to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the purpose of shooting down U.S. Military helicopters.
“Today, one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past,” said then-Attorney General Eric Holder back in November 2011. “Viktor Bout’s arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades. Today, he faces the prospect of life in prison for his efforts to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”
“As the evidence at trial showed, Viktor Bout was ready to sell a weapons arsenal that would be the envy of some small countries,” said then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. “He aimed to sell those weapons to terrorists for the purpose of killing Americans. With today’s swift verdict, justice has been done and a very dangerous man will be behind bars. I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who investigated this case on three different continents and helped to bring Viktor Bout to justice.”
Griner was arrested on drug charges back in February and pleaded guilty this month to the charges but denied that she had intentionally broken the law. Whelan was arrested back in 2018 on espionage charges, which he has denied.
This report has been updated to include additional information.