Donald Trump made it clear he doesn’t support the #FreeBrittney movement to bring the All-Star WNBA player back home safely from Russian custody.
“She knew you don’t go in there loaded up with drugs,” Trump said of 31-year-old Brittney Griner on the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton radio show Saturday. “I assume she admitted it without too much force, because it is what it is.”
‘“They don’t like drugs,” Trump went on. “And she got caught. And now, we’re supposed to get her out—and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess.”
Griner, the center for the Phoenix Mercury pro team, has been detained in Russia since February on drug possession and smuggling charges after Russian customs found less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. After pleading guilty, Griner explained during her trial that the weed was prescribed to her for pain by a physician in Arizona and that she packed it in a rush and had no intention of trying to sneak the contraband past airport security.
Griner’s arrest also came just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, a military move that the U.S. and many of its allies adamantly opposed, and has led to speculation that she’s a political pawn in the conflict.
But her alleged mistake garnered no sympathy from the former president, who slammed a reported plan to trade a Russian criminal convicted in the U.S. for the athlete.
“We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world,” Trump said. “He’s absolutely one of the worst in the world, and he’s going to be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs.”
Trump was referencing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who’s currently 11 years into a 25-year prison sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to people who planned to kill Americans. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. has proposed swapping the notorious criminal, who’s been dubbed the “merchant of death,” in exchange for both Griner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who’s been detained in Russian since 2018 on espionage charges. Wheelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.
Last week, Russia confirmed that early negotiations about Bout’s release did not lead to anything concrete. The Russian government, however, has proposed swapping Griner and Whelan for both Bout and Vadim Krasikov, a Russian colonel sentenced to life in prison in Germany after murdering a Chechen fighter there in 2019, multiple sources told CNN.
It’s not clear if the U.S. will entertain the proposal since it was communicated via a backchannel used by Russian spy agency “FSB,” according to CNN. While the U.S. may be waiting for a more formal request to be made, the outlet was able to confirm that U.S. officials have at least begun reaching out to the Germans to weigh the possibilities of releasing Krasikov.
Even if talks about Krasikov fall through, Russia is still likely to ask for the release of another prisoner, Roman Seleznev, a convicted hacker currently serving a 27-year sentence in the U.S., multiple sources told CNN.
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