(SNews) – Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has joined the wave of critics blasting President Joe Biden’s prisoner exchange deal that saw “woke” WNBA star Brittney Griner traded for Russian arms deal Viktor Bout, aka “The Merchant of Death.”
As Slay News reported, Biden agreed to release Bout in exchange for Griner’s return to the United States.
Griner was sentenced to serve nine years in a Russian prison after she pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges.
She was arrested after she was caught trying to leave Russia with cannabis in her bag.
Bout was charged in connection with an arms deal with suspected terrorists while selling weapons in Iraq.
However, U.S. authorities say he has been involved in trafficking arms since the 1990s.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and convicted on terrorism charges in 2012.
Meanwhile, Biden’s deal dropped the condition from earlier negotiations that U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan would also be released in exchange for Bout.
Whelan, who worked as a security expert, was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and falsely accused of being a spy.
On June 15, 2020, he received a 16-year prison sentence after being convicted of espionage charges in a Russian court.
Menendez issued a statement blasting Biden’s decision as “deeply disturbing.”
“The news this morning of Brittney Griner’s release is a welcomed development toward our collective efforts to secure the return of all those wrongfully detained in Russia,” the senator said.
“I can only imagine the pain and heartache she and her family have been going through since her detention almost ten months ago, and I join them in this moment of profound relief as she returns to her life here in the United States.
“To be clear, Ms. Griner should have been released immediately and unconditionally a long time ago.
“Putin has known that all along,” he claimed.
“This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans.
“The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griner’s of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death.’
“Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision.
“We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention.
“My heart also goes out to the families of other American citizens in Russian prisons and labor camps, including Paul Whelan.
“They have my renewed commitment and determination to use the power of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to secure Mr. Whelan’s safe return and to continue fighting for the release of all Russian political prisoners, like Vladimir Kara Murza, and all other unjustly detained Americans,” he said.
Former Trump administration official-turned-Trump critic John Bolton said:
“The Bout-for-Griner prisoner swap is not a trade, it’s an American surrender.
“This is not what American strength looks like.
“Terrorists and rogue states are smiling.”
The Bout-for-Griner prisoner swap is not a trade, it's an American surrender. This is not what American strength looks like. Terrorists and rogue states are smiling.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) December 8, 2022
“Paul Whelan should have been part of this deal,” said Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID).
“He is a Marine who fought for our country, and he is a hero.
“He has spent four years unjustly held and badly mistreated in Russian prisons.
“The Biden administration cannot forget him now that Griner has been released.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said:
“It’s been over 4 years since his imprisonment.
“How much longer must his family wait?
“There is no place for weakness when it comes to lives of innocent Americans.”
Does it surprise anyone the Biden regime would leave a Marine behind after they abandoned Americans in Afghanistan.
— Catturd ™ (@catturd2) December 8, 2022
On Thursday, the White House defended the decision to leave Whelan behind by arguing that Griner is more “important” because she’s an “inspiration” to “woke” Americans.