Former National Security Adviser Makes Claim About Russia, Paul Whelan Deal Under Trump
Former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser revealed that Russians previously appeared willing to release retired Marine Paul Whelan.
Robert O’Brien told The Hill the Russians went back on an agreement that would have freed Whelan and Trevor Reed after President Joe Biden was announced as the winner of the 2020 election.
“Once we lost the election, the Russians lost all interest” in discussions with the administration, according to O’Brien.
The former adviser said he felt he received a commitment from Russian National Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev to free both Whelan and Reed in “exchange for scheduling summits between Washington and Moscow that the Kremlin sought,” as The Hill reported.
The outlet noted Patrushev met with O’Brien in October 2020, however, O’Brien said they did not have a discussion about a prisoner swap or the release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“Without getting into the details, there were further summit meetings the Russians wanted to have that would have required improvement in relations,” O’Brien said.
He added, “And my position was, if you want to improve relations with us, you cannot keep Whelan and Reed.”
Earlier this week, Trump shared a post on Truth Social about turning down a deal to free Whelan.
“I turned down a deal with Russia for a one on one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death for Paul Whelan. I wouldn’t have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone that has killed untold numbers of people with his arms deals,” Trump wrote.
The post continues, “I would have gotten Paul out, however, just as I did with a record number of other hostages. The deal for Griner is crazy and bad. The taking wouldn’t have even happened during my Administration, but if it did, I would have gotten her out , fast!”
NEW: Trump says he rejected deal with Russia to release Paul Whelan pic.twitter.com/ALBkyDs5ru
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) December 12, 2022
Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth, reacted to Trump’s statement during a phone call with The Hill.
“The business with the former president, basically saying he turned down an offer to bring back Paul, was a surprise and not a welcome one,” she said.
A senior White House official recently shared that White House and State Department officials met with Whelan’s family to discuss renewed calls for his release from Russian custody, as IJR reported.
The meeting came after WNBA player Brittney Griner was released from Russian prison after being held there for months on drug charges.
Reed, a former marine, was released in a prisoner swap in April after being detained in Russia since 2019.
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