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TUCKER CARLSON: This was a very costly prisoner swap

Fox News host Tucker Carlson weighs in on President Biden trading a Russian arms dealer in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner on "Tucker Carlson Tonight."

In December of 2018, an Iraq war veteran called Paul Whelan flew to Moscow to attend the wedding of a friend he'd known in the Marine Corps. Days after he arrived — six days, we think — Whelan was arrested in his room at the Metropol Hotel and charged with spying. Russian authorities claimed Whelan had accepted a flash drive loaded with classified information from an intel agent in Russia. He was put on trial and he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage.

From the very beginning, Whelan claimed he was set up. He said he was in Moscow on vacation at the wedding, he wasn't spying on Russia. And we tend to believe him though honestly, we can't know for sure. How could we? But either way, whether he was set up or actually spying on Russia, Paul Whelan's case would be a priority for any American government. Here you have a man who's actively served the United States in the Marine Corps and then possibly as an intel asset in a hostile foreign country. That man is languishing in a Russian prison cell for the rest of his useful life.

So not surprisingly, American authorities in Washington promised to do everything possible to bring this man home. But it turns out they didn't mean a word of it. Today, the Biden administration announced it had secured the release of an American imprisoned in Russia, but it was not Paul Whelan. It was a female basketball player called Brittney Griner, who was arrested several months ago for breaking Russian drug laws. In exchange for Griner, the administration handed over an arms dealer called Viktor Bout. Now Bout is an indisputably serious criminal. He sold weapons to terror groups that killed Americans. We're not overstating that. Here's a summary.


MICHAEL BRAUN: Victor Bout, in my eyes, is one of the most dangerous men on the face of the earth.

ARMEN KETEYIAN: On the face of the earth?

MIKE BRAUN: Without a doubt.

ARMEN KETEYIAN: Mike Braun, the former chief of operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told us Bout first exploded on the scene in war-torn West Africa in the late 1980s. Elevating bloody conflicts from machetes and single-shot rifles to…

BRAUN: AK-47s, not by the thousands, but by the tens of thousands.

KETEYIAN: So he weaponizes civil war in Africa?

BRAUN: He transformed these young, adolescent warriors into insidious, mindless, maniacally driven killing machines that operated with assembly line efficiencies.

KETEYIAN: The U.S. has indicted him on four terror-related charges, including conspiracy to kill Americans. What makes him a threat to the United States? 

BRAUN: He's a shadow facilitator. He's arming not only designated terrorist groups, insurgent groups, but he's also arming very powerful drug-trafficking cartels around the globe.

So that's the guy that Joe Biden just sprung from prison, the international arms dealer who's arming terror groups and drug cartels. Now, keep in mind, the same administration that did that is simultaneously calling for the arrest and imprisonment of American citizens who have handgun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. So by any measure, it was a very costly prisoner swap. Certainly from Paul Whelan's perspective, it was. Earlier today, amazingly, Whelan spoke to a CNN reporter from the penal colony where he's being held south of Moscow. Listen to him.

PAUL WHELAN: I would say that if a message could go to President Biden that, you know, this is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly. And I would hope that he and his administration would do everything they could to get me home, regardless of the price they might have to pay at this point. I have to say I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I'm happy that Brittney is going home today and that Trevor went home when he did, but I don't understand why I'm still sitting here. My bags are packed. I'm ready to go home. I just need an airplane to come and get me.

Ah, poor guy. "I don't understand why I'm still sitting here," he said. You can imagine how he feels. So the former Marine, who's been there for four years already, gets left behind in Russia while the celebrity athlete who gets busted with hash oil is championed by her celebrity media friends like Gayle King and is home in just months. I mean, that's what happened. And it seems like a metaphor for how America under Joe Biden is working at this point. "But no," says Joe Biden. "We had no choice to take but to take Brittney Griner over Paul Whelan. Putin demanded that."

JOE BIDEN: We never forgot about Brittney. We've not forgotten about Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly detained in Russia for years. This was not a choice of which America to bring home.

"This was not a choice of which America to bring home." Really? Oh, but it clearly was a choice. And we know it was a choice because the first accounts of the prisoner swap with Russia said it was a choice. Earlier today, Andrea Mitchell of NBC — this is someone who's been in Washington covering news for more than 50 years, someone who is deeply supportive of the Joe Biden administration — contributed to a story that contained this line: "The Kremlin gave the White House the choice of either Griner or Whelan — or none." So Mitchell's piece attributed this fact to a "senior U.S. official." It was not a guess. It was sourced. And then, as with the early reporting on Paul Pelosi last month, that account was scrubbed and sanitized, and the new version of the NBC story assures us that: "The Kremlin ultimately gave the White House the choice of either Griner or no one."

In other words, Joe Biden's version of events is now perfectly in sync with the official NBC News version of events. Of course. And we missed this. A writer on Substack called Jordan Schachtel noticed it, and we're glad that he did. This kind of thing happens all the time in Washington constantly, usually without the public knowing that it happened. So at this point, we can assume the obvious. The Biden administration chose Brittney Griner over Paul Whelan. The basketball player over the Marine facing 16 years. There was only room for one in the lifeboat and the Marine got left behind.

Well, why did they make that choice? Well, you should know that Whelan is a Trump voter, and he made the mistake of saying so on social media. He's paying the price for that now. Brittney Griner is not. She's got very different politics. Brittney Griner despises the United States. She's been very vocal about that. This country is so repellent and immoral that two years ago she said: "I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our basketball season." She hates the country so much she doesn't want to hear its anthem. That's the kind of position that gets you rewarded by Joe Biden. "Hate America? Perfect. We'll free the guy who sold weapons to drug cartels to get you out early."


So there's that. And then there's the matter of identity, which is central to equity. Brittney Griner is not White and she's a lesbian. Now, those facts might seem irrelevant to you. We hope they do seem irrelevant because they are, but they're not irrelevant to the White House press secretary. In the view of the White House press secretary, those are essential qualifications for a prisoner swap. 

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: The choice became to either bring Brittney home or no one. As the president said this morning, he will never stop working to secure Paul's release and return home, and he will not give up. On a personal note, Brittany is more than an athlete, more than an Olympian. She is an important role model and inspiration to millions of Americans, particularly the LGBTQI+ Americans and women of color. She should never have been detained by Russia.


So there's Joe Biden's press secretary telling you that Brittney Griner is important because she's a lesbian woman of color, and by the way, so am I. That's what she said. Now, how perverse is that? You hear that kind of stuff all the time, but how perverse is it? Well, imagine a press secretary from the last administration, say, Sean Spicer, pausing in the middle of a briefing to tell you that "on a personal note, it is thrilling when a straight, White man gets out of prison." What would you think of that? You'd probably see that as an offense against the idea of the rule of law, against the idea of a country where we're all treated equally because we're all citizens. But liberals don't see it that way because they don't believe in abstract principles, so they're 100% behind that idea. Here's Van Jones on CNN.

VAN JONES: It just shows this president got it done. He cared enough about this individual person to get her home. It was shocking for young Americans to see an icon like that snatched, locked up. What you don't have and what you can't allow to happen to have a Black female icon treated like garbage and America do nothing about it. Something was done about it and people are going to be proud about that.

Oh, so it's not that you can't have an American mistreated by a foreign government — you can't have a Black female icon mistreated by a foreign government. See that? You get more rights based on what color you are, what sexual orientation you are. But that's not how this country works or has ever worked or should ever work. That's immoral. 

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