Democrat Senator Bashes Biden’s Prisoner Swap

( Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has voiced criticism of the significant issue of hostage-taking and swapping as well as the exchange with Russia of American basketball player Brittney Griner for arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Reports show Griner was detained in Russia in February for attempting to enter the country with a cannabis-filled vape cartridge. She pleaded guilty to the charge this summer.

According to a report, Bout is a Russian weapons dealer who attempted to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to shoot down American military helicopters. Bout was found guilty of terrorism-related charges in 2011.

In November 2011, then-Attorney General Eric Holder said that one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers was being held accountable for his sordid past.  Holder explained that Viktor Bout’s involvement in the trafficking of weapons and support for armed conflict had long been a cause for concern. He faced the possibility of life in prison due to his efforts to sell weapons to terrorists worth millions of dollars so they could kill Americans.

It is reported that Menendez’s remarked this should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to acknowledge we have a severe problem with the hostage-taking of Americans.

Menendez explained that the Brittney Griners of the world and individuals like Viktor Bout, the alleged “Merchant of Death,” cannot be equated, according to the Russians and other regimes that hold American citizens hostage. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we must acknowledge how disturbing it is to let Bout back into the world.

Menendez said that we must do better at discouraging American citizens from traveling to places like Russia, where they are the primary targets for unlawful detention. We must stop encouraging dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips.

Ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained in Russia in 2018 on suspicion of espionage, was also mentioned in Menendez’s statement.

In his statement, Menendez said that his heart goes out to the families of other American citizens, including Paul Whelan, who is being held in Russian prisons and labor camps.  He has reaffirmed his commitment and determination to use the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s authority to secure Mr. Whelan’s safe return and to continue advocating for the release of all political prisoners in Russia.  Including Vladimir Karamurza and all other Americans who have been wrongfully detained.