Joe Biden approved a one-for-one swap with Russia: Brittney Griner, an American basketball player convicted for having vape cartridges and cannabis oil, for Viktor Bout, the man known as the “Merchant of Death.” There were a lot of questions about the lopsided nature of the deal, including leaving out other people who were detained like Paul Whelan, who had some things to say about being excluded. But there was also the question of doing a trade itself, giving up someone who had wreaked such havoc on the world, and how much that might endanger people in the future. Not to mention the precedent you set, which also might endanger the safety of Americans in the future.
Here’s the story of two videos that reflect those concerns.
Bout was an entrepreneur and former Soviet military translator turned international arms dealer. Law enforcement made an international effort across three continents to try to get him into custody because of how dangerous he was. Here’s Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2010, describing to “60 Minutes” who Bout is: “one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth.”
The Merchant of Death, Viktor Bout: "He transformed these men adolescent warriors into insidious mindless maniacally killing machines that operated with assembly line efficiencies."
"Viktor Bout is one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth." pic.twitter.com/JwgFqwy9lI
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) December 8, 2022
Braun notes he armed people by the tens of thousands, weaponizing civil war in places like Africa, “He transformed these men, adolescent warriors, into insidious mindless maniacally killing machines that operated with assembly line efficiencies.” Braun said he was a “shadow facilitator,” arming terrorist and insurgent groups and powerful cartels. He was charged with “conspiracy to kill Americans” and was also termed the “Lord of War.” You can hear one of the law enforcement officials saying what a “great feeling” it was to have him in custody
I wonder what all those guys who worked so hard to get Bout into custody think now, about this deal? I’m thinking it’s not a “great feeling” anymore. And also this was because of a decision by Joe Biden, the guy who is always screaming “gun control” as he makes possibly the most anti-gun crime control move ever. Plus we’re giving a ton of money to Ukraine, and Biden just helped Russia get their arms dealer back.
Fast forward to the second video — the exchange of Bout and Griner. Tass, Russian state media, took video of the event. You can see Griner in the red jacket and Bout is the guy holding the manila envelope. People noticed something strange in the video.
— Maxim A. Suchkov (@m_suchkov) December 8, 2022
Bout is hugged by someone in the group transferring Griner, then he shakes the hand of another person. You see Griner turning toward Bout, and Bout nodding toward Griner. Then, right at that point, there’s an edit, to the rest of the video of them walking away from each other. That raises the question of what was edited out. Some speculated that the edit was Griner shaking Bout’s hand, because of the turn/movement by Griner in that direction.
Probably not great optics there to have your star prisoner swap shaking hands with the most notorious arms dealer on the planet.
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) December 8, 2022
It does seem curious that something was cut right at that point.
But what I take away from it beyond that is that Bout is grinning that he’s free as he walks away, knowing how much of a break he got in this bad trade after U.S. law enforcement went to so much trouble to lock him up.
Here’s what he said in 2012 to a writer for The New Yorker, taunting us even then and Biden helped make part of this come true.
A long prison term still awaits, however. On March 12th, Bout, who turned forty-five not long ago, will receive a sentence of between twenty-five years and life. “They will try to lock me up for life,” Bout told me. “But I’ll get back to Russia. I don’t know when. But I’m still young. Your empire will collapse and I’ll get out of here.”