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Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted the Biden administration over its recent prisoner swap of Russian “Merchant of Death” arms dealer Viktor Bout for American WNBA player Brittney Griner.
Pompeo shared his criticisms during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” with Shannon Bream.
“We weren’t going to trade bad guys for celebrities because it creates the wrong incentives for the bad guys. As we go forward, it’s not good for American national security. It’s not good for people who are traveling across the world,” Pompeo said.
WATCH: Former Secretary of State @mikepompeo joined @ShannonBream on #FoxNewsSunday to react to Brittney Griner's release and China's developing relationship with Saudi Arabia. Plus, he shares his thoughts on the future of the Republican Party as well as his 2024 plans. pic.twitter.com/gGjEzcy54n
— Fox News Sunday (@FoxNewsSunday) December 11, 2022
Griner was released after being detained in Russia for ten months for bringing cannabis oil cartridges into the country just ahead of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Phoenix Mercury star was later sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony. The Biden administration held months of talks with Russian leaders to negotiate Griner’s release.
Griner’s prison swap was announced on Thursday. Some Americans celebrated her freedom, but many were critical of the trade.
Bout was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization. Some worries remain that the Merchant of Death could soon return to his former ways.
“[W]e cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said in a statement. “We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try do (sic) better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention.”
Former DEA agent Robert Zachariasiewicz told the Washington Post that he opposed the prisoner swap over the message it could send to Russian leaders.
“We just showed that it is really useful to have an American in your back pocket because you never know when you need them to trade,” Zachariasiewicz said.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton also criticized the agreement.
“This is not a deal. This is not a swap. This is a surrender. And terrorists and rogue states all around the world will take note of this, and it endangers other Americans in the future who can be grabbed and used as bargaining chips by people who don’t have the same morals and scruples that we do,” Bolton said during a CBS interview.
Others have expressed frustration that former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan remains imprisoned in Russia and was not part of the deal.
“I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” Whelan said. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”