Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, said the Biden administration cut a “bad deal” in securing Brittney Griner’s release, while also expressing relief she has been free.
Rubio warned the deal will “incentivize the taking of more Americans around the world.”
“An American citizen who is a hostage was released is good news. I think the challenge this points to is, these regimes know this. This is why Maduro traded five Citgo executives — who were lured to Venezuela to get arrested — for his nephews who are convicted drug traffickers. That’s why you trade a professional basketball player with (cannabis) oil for the Merchant of Death. These are bad trades,” Rubio said, referencing a prisoner swap involving US oil executives held by Venezualan leader Nicolas Maduro.
Asked by CNN if he would not have made this deal if he were president, Rubio said he hoped the deal with the Russians “would have been part of a broader arrangement that would have included every American that’s being held hostage.”
“We have to recognize, even as we’re happy in Americans coming home, it does incentivize the taking of more Americans around the world,” he said.
Rubio added that he thinks Griner will be “very grateful and have a greater appreciation for the greatness of this country and how special it is.”
Other Republican leaders also criticized the deal:
Florida congressman Mike Waltz told Fox News that he is “happy for the Griner family, but in the long-term, appeasing terrorists, appeasing dictatorships never works in the interests of the United States.”
Waltz was critical of the lack of a deal freeing Whelan.
“My heart breaks for the Whelan family,” he said. “What was his crime? Not being a celebrity? Not checking enough boxes for Hollywood? The fact that we left a US Marine behind and made this choice, and I don’t buy … President Biden saying we didn’t have a choice.”
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso echoed that sentiment in an interview with Fox Business.
“It’s absolutely wrong to leave the Marine there,” he said, referring to Paul Whelan. “He may not be forgotten but he’s still there.”