Washington Post columnist and deputy editorial page editor Karen Tumulty dropped a truth bomb about the Biden administration on Friday.
Speaking on “PBS NewsHour” about Russia’s detention of reporter Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street Journal, she admitted that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been incentivized to detain Gershkovich because of the whole Brittney Griner situation.
The discussion began with host Amna Nawaz asking David Brooks of The New York Times whether Gershkovich’s detention is a sign of escalation from Russia.
Listen from the 7:15 mark below:
“For sure. … It’s an attempt first to crack down on press coverage of Russia. And second, it may be just hostage-taking for more trades. And so it’s what happens as Putin gets more and more extreme and more and more isolated,” Brooks responded.
Nawaz then turned to Tumulty for her take.
“It also speaks to the way he is treating dissidents and critics in the country. It is appalling because there is absolutely no evidence of espionage,” she initially replied before dropping a stunning truth bomb.
“But I do think that he made a calculation that the whole Brittney Griner situation really worked out in their favor. They released her, and they got a really bad guy back. So I just don’t know how the Biden administration handles this, but I think all of us need to keep attention on this and to continue to demand as loud as we can that he be released because there is no evidence of espionage,” she said.
As previously reported, in December the Biden administration exchanged a convicted Russian arms dealer for Griner, an American basketball player who months earlier was convicted in Russia of smuggling and possession of marijuana and subsequently sentenced to nearly a decade in prison.
At the time of the trade, many critics complained that it was a lousy deal, especially given convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout’s record.
“Bout, a former Soviet military officer, was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization,” according to CNN.
And so the administration basically traded a terrorist for a basketball player. Critics were stunned.
“We got had. Viktor Bout conspired to sell arms that would target Americans. He profited from war and genocide, and we traded him for someone who disrespected our country while leaving behind a U.S. Marine. I’m glad Brittney’s home, but this was a bad deal,” one critic, Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett, a Republican, tweeted after the deal was broadcast.
“If @POTUS is going to release a guy convicted of providing aid to a terrorist organization & conspiring to kill American citizens, he should have at least gotten BOTH Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan in return. A U.S. Marine is left behind in another bad deal made by Biden,” New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis added.
See more notable reactions below:
The Biden admin has just done a trade so bad that even the Pittsburgh Pirates are saying WTF
Viktor Bout (aka the merchant of death)
— Harrison Krank (@HarrisonKrank) December 8, 2022
I’m glad #BrittneyGriner is coming back home . The issue I have is that Biden and @JakeSullivan46 made such a bad deal in exchanging her for Viktor Bout aka the executioner, do you know what precedent that sets for Americans vacationing or traveling over seas ?
— FADDE (@fadde) December 8, 2022
We have multiple US military veterans and members of American intelligence currently imprisoned in Russia as well.
With respect to Griner, she’s a basketball player.
For Viktor Bout, an arms dealer known as “the Sanction Buster” and ally to Putin, I’m sorry, that’s a bad deal.
— Sean CW Korsgaard (@SCWKorsgaard) December 8, 2022
America-hating pothead Brittney Griner for “The Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout is a terrible deal for America. pic.twitter.com/unmQWBZz7u
— Nick Adams (Alpha Male) (@NickAdamsinUSA) December 8, 2022
As noted by Malliotakis, in making the deal for Griner, the Biden administration chose to abandon former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who in 2020 was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison for alleged espionage.
The only good news for Whelan is that ever since Griner’s release, she’s been advocating for his release as well.
“In a handwritten note posted to her Instagram account … Griner told supporters their letters to her and advocacy for her release had made a big impact, and she asked them to do the same for Whelan, who was arrested in Russia four years ago. She included an address where supporters can send letters to the imprisoned American,” the Associated Press reported at the time.
“I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families,” Griner reportedly wrote.