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Reacting to news that WNBA star Brittney Griner is returning to the U.S. as part of a prisoner swap with Russia, outgoing Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) expressed dismay that former-United States Marine Paul Whelan was not part of the package negotiated by President Joe Biden's administration.
Whelan was accused and convicted of spying by Russian authorities just short of four years ago -- and is currently serving a 16-year sentence -- while American basketball star has only been held since February of this year on drug charges.
Taking to Twitter, Kinzinger -- who served in Afghanistan -- made his feelings known about the prisoner exchange that also involved arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is also known as the "Merchant of Death."
"So a basketball star is released, we can celebrate, but what about Paul Whelan? An American unjustly detained for years. May not be high profile but he is innocent. This is a dangerous road," he wrote.
Paul Whelan was left behind in Brittney Griner swap — here's why it's so hard to get him out of Russia
This week, President Joe Biden managed to broker a prisoner swap with Russia, allowing the release of basketball star Brittney Griner in exchange for Russia being handed Viktor Bout, an arms trafficker known as the "merchant of death." Notably absent from the swap, however, was Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been stuck in Russian prison for years on dubious espionage charges.
On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," reporter Andrea Mitchell detailed the key reason why it has been so hard for the Biden administration to broker Whelan's freedom.
"So the swap was done, she is on her way home and the president is about to announce that," said Mitchell. "The fact is that the Paul Whelan news is dismaying. His parents were very concerned because he had gotten out of touch. And then I learned last sunday, and David Whelan confirmed this with us on Monday, that he was actually taken from the prison to the prison hospital even though he wasn't sick, with no explanation, on Thanksgiving Day, so that he could not call home."
Whelan, Mitchell continued, "deserves better from this government and I encourage Biden to get his return using all tools available ... but I think that it is going to be difficult for the administration and they know this."
The big problem with Whelan, Mitchell said, is the specific nature of the espionage charges Russia convicted him on, which are much more serious than Griner's charges for drug use.
"The Russians were demanding that a Russian spy be turned over in addition to Viktor Bout, the notorious arms dealer, and the U.S. position is they don't have any Russian spies in captivity to turn over," said Mitchell. "Initially, as you may recall, the Russians were demanding that a man, a spy in German captivity — assassin, actually — had to be turned over, and U.S. said, we can't ask the Germans to turn someone over. So they said they had nothing to offer and the Russians were demanding that if Whelan was going to get out, they had to get someone labeled a spy. And Whelan is not a spy according to him, his family, and the U.S. government. So, bittersweet moment, but certainly great news for Brittney Griner and her family and fans."
Watch video below or at this link.
Right-wing television host Karyn Turk blasted President Joe Biden's administration after WNBA star Britney Griner was released from a Russian prison, but some Jan. 6 rioters remained behind bars.
Turk seemed shocked on the Real America's Voice morning broadcast as news broke that Griner had been traded for a Russian arms dealer.
"Wait a minute," she said. "You knew what the laws were in that country, and you chose to smuggle in Marijuana in your bag, and we are trading an arms dealer for you? What? What is happening?"
Turk complained that Griner would be celebrated upon her return to the U.S.
"They are going to make her some American hero," she said. "She's going to get the font page of Vanity Fair, and she's going to get all dressed up, and she's going to be on the cover of Vogue. Mark my words. That's what's going to happen."
Co-host Ed Henry noted that viewers were calling to "release all the J6ers," referring to Jan. 6 defendants.
"It's sad," she opined. "You think about all these people, these Americans that are just sitting in jail in a gulag, and we are releasing, you know, this entitled, spoiled brat that went to a foreign country and broke a law."
Turk has experience with time in prison. She served a month in 2020 after being convicted of stealing her dying mother's Social Security checks.
Watch the video below from Real America's Voice.