President Joe Biden is offering to exchange a known Russian terrorist for WNBA star Brittney Griner.
In February, Griner was detained by Russian authorities in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her belongings.
Months later on July 7, Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling in a Russian court. In Russia, the penalty for such a crime is up to 10 years in prison.
According to an exclusive report from CNN, the Biden administration has been debating how to handle the situation for “months” and has finally come to a solution.
Three anonymous sources claim that the Biden administration is offering to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for the two-time Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury star.
The Department of Justice is reportedly opposed to Biden’s decision to release Bout but the president’s authority overrules any opposition from the department.
In 2011, Bout was convicted on charges of terrorism, according to the Associated Press. His crimes have afforded him the nickname “Merchant of Death.”
The Russian attempted to sell tens of millions of dollars of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia. The militia was planning on using the missiles to shoot down U.S. Military helicopters.
“Today, one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past,” then-Attorney General Eric Holder said back in November 2011 according to the Daily Wire.
“Viktor Bout’s arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades. Today, he faces the prospect of life in prison for his efforts to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”
“As the evidence at trial showed, Viktor Bout was ready to sell a weapons arsenal that would be the envy of some small countries,” Preet Bharara, the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said after Bout’s conviction according to the Daily Wire.
“He aimed to sell those weapons to terrorists for the purpose of killing Americans. With today’s swift verdict, justice has been done and a very dangerous man will be behind bars. I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who investigated this case on three different continents and helped to bring Viktor Bout to justice.”
Despite Bout’s many crimes, one senior administration official told CNN that negotiations for the exchange are currently ongoing.
The official said a “substantial offer” was first communicated in June, according to CNN on Wednesday.
It remains unclear whether the deal will go through, the official then noted.
“It takes two to tango. We start all negotiations to bring home Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained with a bad actor on the other side. We start all of these with somebody who has taken a human being American and treated them as a bargaining chip,” the official said.
“So in some ways, it’s not surprising, even if it’s disheartening, when those same actors don’t necessarily respond directly to our offers, don’t engage constructively in negotiations.”