Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the Biden administration offering a malicious Russian prisoner in exchange for two American detainees is a dangerous path for U.S. foreign policy.
“He’s a bad guy. He is a guy who wanted to kill Americans. It presents a real risk to the United States… There’s a real reason the Russians want to get him home. To offer a trade like this is a dangerous precedent,” Pompeo told “America’s Newsroom.”
“This is not a good trade, not the right path forward, and it’ll likely lead to more.”
Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death” whose weapons sales fueled deadly conflicts around the world, could be sent back to his motherland in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
WHO IS VIKTOR BOUT, RUSSIA’S ‘MERCHANT OF DEATH’ WHO COULD BE FREED IN PRISONER SWAP FOR BRITTNEY GRINER?
Russian officials have long pushed for the release of Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence in U.S. prison after being convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to deliver anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization.
He was nabbed in 2008 in a sting operation at a luxury hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, where he met with Drug Enforcement Administration informants who were posing as officials with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has been classified by US officials as a narco-terrorist group.
Prosecutors said that Bout was prepared to provide the group with $20 million worth of “a breathtaking arsenal of weapons — including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles — 10 million rounds of ammunition and five tons of plastic explosives.”
The Biden administration confirmed Wednesday that it has made a “substantial proposal” to help free Griner and Whelan.
Griner was arrested at a Russian airport in mid-February after police said they found cannabis oil in her bags. She pleaded guilty this month to a drug smuggling charge and could face up to 10 years in prison, but she has said that her “intent” was not to violate Russian law.
Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 on espionage charges, but he and his family have maintained his innocence, while the U.S. government has called the charges false.
Following Pompeo’s appearance on “America’s Newsroom,” Gen. Jack Keane remarked on “The Faulkner Focus” that swapping a prisoner that threatened the U.S. is “distubring.”
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“I agree with Secretary Pompeo,” the Fox News senior strategic analyst said. “This is, as you pointed out, a Russian arms dealer who’s trying to get arrested for attempting to kill Americans who is assisting terrorists around the world. That is the problem.”
“I [have] great empathy for the families, and certainly they’re hoping that something comes of this,” he continued. “But this is the wrong choice the administration has made. The Department of Justice was opposed to this initially, and they were browbeat by Secretary Blinken and the president of the United States to agree. And I think the Department of Justice was right in the beginning and putting their hands up and saying, ‘No, no, not this person. Let’s find somebody else.'”
Fox News’ Paul Best contributed to this report.