White House ‘not going to apologize’ for releasing ‘Merchant of Death’ as critics rail ‘bad deal’


President Biden makes “no apologies” for releasing “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday, despite critics who say it was a poor deal. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the exchange to skeptical reporters during Thursday’s briefing, saying the options were to either secure Griner’s release or no one’s. Critics have argued that Bout remains a dangerous man and was too great a prize to give to Russia. “This was someone who had conspired to sell AK-47s that he knew would have been used to kill Americans — American drug agents. Law enforcement officials may not be happy with his release. What is the president’s message to them and to others who say essentially that this was a bad deal?” a reporter asked. Jean-Pierre acknowledged that immediate results in prisoner exchanges can feel “unfair or arbitrary” but ultimately defended the White House decision. “The president felt a moral obligation to bring Brittney home. There was an opportunity to do that, and it was either Brittney or no one at all, and we are not going to apologize for that,” Jean-Pierre said, adding officials would continue to negotiate the release of U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan. Whelan has been in Russian custody the past four years and has 12 years of hard labor left on his espionage sentence. Fox News’ White House correspondent Peter Doocy later pressed Jean-Pierre on why the deal appeared to be so lopsided in favor of Russia. “In this prisoner swap, why did Russia get such a better deal?” Doocy asked. “Here were our choices. Our choices were Brittney or no one at all — bringing home one American or no American at all,” Jean-Pierre said.

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