Fox News contributor and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the Biden administration’s recent prisoner swap with Russia, saying it creates incentives for U.S. adversaries to take hostages.
In the swap, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was released in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner. Pompeo said the Trump administration was careful not to trade “bad guys” for celebrities because it could put American lives at risk.
“I think for people out there of notoriety, it is more likely they will be taken hostage today, and that is not a good policy,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News. He also noted that the swap sends the wrong message to America’s enemies.
Pompeo’s comments come after days of controversy surrounding the deal. Critics have pointed out that Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death,” was convicted in 2011 for conspiracy to kill Americans and providing aid to a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan remains imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges.
The White House has defended the swap, saying that Russia is treating Whelan differently because of the more serious charge against him and that the U.S. had the opportunity to get Griner back or no one at all. National Security Council strategic communications coordinators John Kirby said that Bout was set to be released in 2029 anyway.
In his interview with Fox News, Pompeo emphasized that the Trump administration always prioritized American national security in negotiations with foreign countries. “We weren’t going to trade bad guys for celebrities because it creates the wrong incentives for the bad guys as we go forward,” he said. “It’s not good for American national security. It’s not good for people who are traveling across the world.”