Mike Pence calls Brittney Griner release an 'ill-advised' and 'uneven' trade


The former vice president said he wouldn't have made the deal to bring the WNBA player home.

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday criticized President Joe Biden's deal to bring professional basketball player Brittney Griner home after she was detained for nearly a year in Russia, calling the decision "ill-advised."

Pence made the comment during a Fox News interview, during which he said he never would have agreed to trade Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

"I'm so glad that Brittney Griner has been restored to her family and can continue her career, but to have released one of the most dangerous arms dealers in the world at a time when Russia is advancing a heartless war in Ukraine alone, I think is ill-advised," Pence said, adding that it was an "uneven trade."

Pence joined a chorus of Republicans who criticized Griner's release, including former President Donald Trump.

Trump called the release of Griner an "unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA" in a post on his Truth Social platform and said the Biden administration should have also brought home former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested in 2018 when Trump was in office.

But Pence didn't dispute a claim by former Trump administration official John Bolton that Trump had had the opportunity to trade for Whelan when he was in office but didn't make the deal.

"It just wasn't our approach," Pence said on Fox News. "We weren't in the business of prisoner swaps, we weren't in the business of this kind of uneven trade."

Meanwhile, Whelan's own family praised the deal to release Griner.

"The Biden administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to happen," Whelan's brother David said.

David Whelan also slammed Trump's comment about Griner's release, telling Fox News on Saturday: "My brother pleaded from his prison for President Trump to tweet about him during President Trump's term in office, and President Trump didn't. And now to talk about Paul at all, it's really offensive."

Biden said he is still working to make deals to bring other prisoners home, including Whelan.

"This was not a choice of which American to bring home. We brought home Trevor Reed when we had a chance earlier this year," Biden said in a speech announcing Griner's release. "Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul's case differently than Brittney's. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul's release, we are not giving up."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.