Republican firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called for President Biden to be impeached on Thursday for the prisoner swap that led to the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from a Russian penal colony.
“Another reason to impeach Biden,” the Georgia lawmaker wrote in a tweet. “The President of the United States traded Russian terrorist arms dealer, Viktor Bout, left a U.S. Marine in Russian jail, and brought home a professional basketball player.
“How many people will Viktor Bout now kill [because] Biden set him free?” she added.
Griner was released on Thursday in a deal brokered by the notorious Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.
She had spent 10 months in Russian custody after being busted at the Moscow airport for carrying a cannabis vape canister.
As part of the prisoner swap, the Biden administration freed the so-called “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout, a convicted international arms dealer and former Soviet military officer who had been serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US.
Bout was convicted in 2011 on charges that included conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to kill Americans, money laundering, and wire fraud.
Greene’s outrage over Bout’s release mirrors criticism from other top Republicans and some Democrats who have denounced the prisoner swap and the 80-year-old president’s alleged prioritization of Griner’s release over other Americans in Russian custody, such as former Marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested by Russian authorities in 2018 and accused of espionage.
Former President Donald Trump called the Griner-Bout exchange “stupid” and an “unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA” in a social media post on Thursday.
“What kind of a deal is it to swap Brittney Griner, a basketball player who openly hates our Country, for the man known as ‘The Merchant of Death,’ who is one of the biggest arms dealers anywhere in the World, and responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and horrific injuries. Why wasn’t former Marine Paul Whelan included in this totally one-sided transaction? He would have been let out for the asking. What a ‘stupid’ and unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA!!!” the 76-year-old former president wrote on Truth Social.
House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy also weighed in Thursday, calling Bout’s release a “gift to Vladimir Putin,” that “endangers American lives.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also ripped Biden’s decision to trade Bout for Griner, writing in a statement that “We cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision.”
The president said on Thursday that bringing Whelen home wasn’t an option.
“This was not a choice about which American to bring home,” Biden said at a press conference. “For totally illegitimate reasons Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittany’s … We will keep negotiating in good faith for Paul’s release.”