Former President Trump said Sunday that he rejected a Russian prisoner trade that would have freed American Paul Whelan. In a post on Truth Social, the Hill reports, Trump said the price—the US release of notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout—was too high. "I turned down a deal with Russia for a one on one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul Whelan," the former president posted. "I wouldn't have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone that has killed untold numbers of people with his arms deals." The Biden administration returned Bout to Russia last week in exchange for American basketball star Brittney Griner.
Trump added that, despite turning down the Whelan-Bout deal, he'd still have gotten the former Marine out of Russia, though he didn't say how or why he didn't. That trade would have been possible during Trump's term, Fiona Hill, a White House national security official at the time, said Sunday on CBS" Face the Nation. "President Trump wasn't especially interested in engaging in that swap," Hill said. David Whelan also said the Trump administration didn't show much interest in his brother's case. "The Biden administration is much more engaged in wrongful detentions," he said.
The Whelans' sister, Elizabeth, had a remote meeting Monday with administration officials about their strategy for gaining her brother's release, per CNN. Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia since 2018. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US and Russia will be in contact this week about the issue. He described it as a "conversation at a high level." He said Biden and Elizabeth Whelan talked last week. She said the meeting Monday with State Department and National Security Council officials lasted 45 minutes. "I am encouraged by their energy," she said. (Read more Donald Trump stories.)