Biden leaves Marine Paul Whelan behind in Russia in Brittney Griner Swap; Family: ‘Catastrophe’

The family of retired sailor Paul Whelan said on Thursday that a prisoner swap for WNBA star Brittney Griner that left Whelan in Russia was a “catastrophe” because the United States would no longer have leverage for the release.

On Thursday, it was revealed that President Joe Biden’s administration had returned Griner to the United States after she was convicted on a drug charge. In return, he gave convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout to Russia.

But Whelan was left behind in Russia, despite the Biden administration telling reporters for months that the United States was also trying to secure his release. He was imprisoned on espionage charges which he denies.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine charged with espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside a defendants’ cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow on June 15, 2020. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

NBC News reported Thursday that Whelan’s relatives said they were given advance notice of the impending Griner trade — and that it wouldn’t include Whelan — so they could prepare for disappointment:

Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, said in a statement that while he can “literally only imagine the joy [Griner] aura, to be reunited with loved ones and in time for the holidays,” the inability to bring Whelan home remains difficult for the family to deal with.

“This early warning has allowed our family to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a disaster for Paul,” David Whelan said. “I don’t know if he still knows, even if he will surely learn from the Russian media.”

Biden’s prisoner swap continues a pattern in which Democratic administrations trade high-profile prisoners, and even pallets of cash, for Americans held overseas. President Donald Trump has instead used threats and pressure.

Griner’s choice over Whelan may reflect the preferences of Biden’s political base. The WNBA star and celebrity is also a black lesbian, who protested the US national anthem. Whelan is a middle-aged white man.

Biden ran in 2020 claiming President Trump doesn’t care about the men and women of the US military, basing his attack on an unsubstantiated story in the Atlantic that he called them “suckers and losers”.

Joel B. Pollak is editor of Breitbart News and host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot Sunday nights from 7-10 p.m. ET (4-7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book Neither Free Nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His latest book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is the winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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