Pompeo slams Biden administration for trading ‘bad guys for celebrities’ in Russian prisoner swap
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the Biden administration on Sunday for exchanging convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner, saying he would never have “traded bad guys for celebrities.”
Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” host Shannon Bream the Trump administration engaged in talks with Russia to release former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, but officials had a “very clear” policy on any exchange.
“We weren’t going to trade bad guys for celebrities because it creates the wrong incentives for the bad guys,” he said. “It’s not good for American national security, it’s not good for people who are traveling across the world.”
The Biden administration was engaged in months of talks with Russian officials to get Griner out before her release last week.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony this summer after she was detained for carrying cannabis oil cartridges in February.
Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” has sold arms and fueled conflict across the world, leading to concerns about his release amid the war in Ukraine.
The Russian arms dealer from Tajikistan is reportedly a close ally of the Kremlin. He was convicted in 2008 of plotting to kill Americans and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Pompeo, a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, on Sunday said releasing Bout could embolden Russia and other authoritarian regimes across the world.
“My mission was always to get every American back but at the same time, not create the risk that more Americans would be taken in,” he said. “If you take a celebrity, the chance of getting one of your bad guys out of American control is greater. I think for people of notoriety, it is more likely they will be taken today and that is not good policy.”
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