On Thursday, President Joe Biden managed to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian prison in an exchange deal with Russia — but was not able to broker such a deal for Paul Whelan, a former Marine being held in Russia on trumped-up espionage charges, in large part because the U.S. has no Russian prisoners the Kremlin is willing to accept as part of that trade.
In an interview on CNN that night, anchor Erin Burnett prodded Paul Whelan's brother, David, to express frustration with the Biden administration over that state of affairs — but Whelan, despite being upset over his brother's situation, made clear he supported the Griner swap.
"It's got to be very frustrating because when you hear Secretary [Antony] Blinken say it was one or none, you know, I guess on a certain level it feels like, well, Putin is the one who made that decision," said Burnett. "He had the leverage and he made the decision, and the U.S. went because that was the best they could do, and one or none was the right thing? Do you think that was the right thing? Are you supportive of what they chose to do, or should they have waited and tried harder?"
"No, I'm absolutely supportive of it," said Whelan. "I think to prolong the punishment of one American in a foreign hostage situation, on the hope that you might be able to bring home two of them, is absolutely the wrong call for the U.S. president to make. An American in the situation who has the possibility of coming home, I think the U.S. president has to bring them home. And unfortunately for my brother, and our family, it's not our family member, but I think from the perspective of Americans, that's the right decision."
"Our producer spoke with your brother today, and I just want be to play some of what he said to her. Here he is," said Burnett as she played the clip.
"The president and his team are going to have to look at what they have as valuable, or I'll be here for a long time," said Paul Whelan in the clip. "In these conditions, who knows how I'll come back or if I'll come back. What I don't understand is why nothing has happened to this point and what the roadmap is for my release in the future. My parents are older. My dog is 14 1/2. If I'm stuck here much longer, I'm in danger of seeing any of them again."
"What's it like to hear your brother say that again?" asked Burnett.
"It's hard," said Whelan. "You can hear the despair. And that's also the reality. He asks for a roadmap and there isn't one. Where we are going has not been plumbed because it changes with each detainee."
Watch the video below or at this link.
David Whelan speaks about his brother's imprisonment in Russia www.youtube.com