Networks Critical of Biden’s Prisoner Swap: ‘Offers The Kremlin Leverage’

Political News

On Thursday, anti-American WNBA player Brittney Griner was released from a Russian prison due to the Biden administration trading away one of Russia’s most dangerous terrorists and arms dealers Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.” While most of the leftist media served their usual purpose as being the mouthpieces for the Biden administration and the Democrat Party, shockingly, the “big three” nightly newscasts actually gave voice to criticism that the United States shouldn’t have traded a dangerous Russian terrorist for Griner, especially while leaving U.S. Marine Paul Whelan behind.

CBS Evening News was the most critical of the three networks with correspondent Jeff Pegues interviewing “Robert Zachariasiewicz who was on the DEA team that tracked Bout down.”

“Why was it a bad deal for the U.S. in your opinion?” Pegues asked Zachariasiewicz, who was clearly frustrated by the Biden administration’s announcement went off on the misguided swap: 

I think that we just encouraged false detentions and hostage-taking all over the world. I think we just sent the message out that it is good business to have an American citizen in your back pocket for that day you need a bargaining chip. 

As evidenced by that, Pegues reported that “according to a new report, the number of U.S. nationals wrongly detained has increased dramatically. In the last decade, the number has spiked 175 percent.” 

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Pegues pointed out the obvious fact that “the detention of Americans like Trevor Reed, released in a prisoner swap earlier this year, and Griner, offers the Kremlin leverage, which many anticipate Vladimir Putin will use as the Biden administration attempts to secure the release of Paul Whelan.” 

ABC’s World News Tonight also spoke to Zachariasiewicz who angrily explained that while “it’s a good thing that a U.S. citizen is home,”  “we just returned the lord of war to Putin. Makes no sense to me.”  

Meanwhile, during NBC Nightly News’ segment, chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell noted how members of Congress in both parties have issues with releasing Bout: “There’s mixed reaction about releasing this infamous Russian arms dealer while leaving Paul Whelan behind with criticism from House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez.”  

To read the relevant transcripts click “expand”: 

ABC’s World News Tonight
12/8/2022
6:38:40 p.m. Eastern 

PIERRE THOMAS: Bout was extradited to the U.S. after DEA agents posing as members of the militant Columbia organization known as fark got him to sell missiles. Tonight one of the former DEA agents involved said it’s a mistake to release him. 

ROBERT ZACHARIASIEWICZ: It’s a good thing that a U.S. citizen is home. And now we just returned the lord of war to Putin. Makes no sense to me. 

THOMAS: Bout was suspected of being a Russian intelligence agent, but he’s been in a U.S. prison for more than a decade. And some officials believe his value as an intelligence asset has long since diminished and swapping him for Griner was the right thing to do, David. 

CBS Evening News
12/8/2022
6:36:10 p.m. Eastern 

JEFF PEGUES: For any White House, prisoner swaps can be complex diplomatic maneuvers, and this swap for Griner is no different, primarily because of Viktor Bout, the so-called “Merchant of Death” whose exploits packed the plot of a Hollywood movie. 

[…]

PEGUES: And whose capture was widely celebrated by U.S. law enforcement. Robert Zachariasiewicz who was on the DEA team that tracked Bout down says that today’s prisoner swap puts other Americans in danger. Why was it a bad deal for the U.S. in your opinion? 

ROBERT ZACHARIASIEWICZ: I think that we just encouraged false detentions and hostage-taking all over the world. I think we just sent the message out that it is good business to have an American citizen in your back pocket for that day you need a bargaining chip. 

PEGUES: According to a new report, the number of U.S. nationals wrongly detained has increased dramatically. In the last decade, the number has spiked 175 percent. The detention of Americans like Trevor Reed, released in a prisoner swap earlier this year, and Griner, offers the Kremlin leverage, which many anticipate Vladimir Putin will use as the Biden administration attempts to secure the release of Paul Whelan. 

These swaps are complicated. One former U.S. law enforcement official says that Viktor Bout served years in prison, is no longer a threat to the U.S. This official sees this swap as a win for the U.S., and especially Brittney Griner and her family.  

NBC Nightly News
12/8/2022
7:05:29 p.m. Eastern 

LESTER HOLT: Andrea, we should note there has been mixed political reaction about giving up Viktor Bout. 

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, tonight there’s overwhelming happiness of course that Brittney Griner has been freed. But you’re right there’s mixed reaction about releasing this infamous Russian arms dealer while leaving Paul Whelan behind with criticism from House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez. But some Democrats say negotiating anything at all with Vladimir Putin while the U.S. is arming Ukraine has been incredibly tough. And they are just relieved Brittney Griner is homeward-bound tonight. Lester?

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