The brother of former United States Marine reservist Paul Whelan called out former Republican President Donald Trump and Republicans at large for hypocrisy, saying they've only suddenly started caring about Whelan's case after the United States secured the release of basketball player Brittney Griner from a Russian penal colony.
Paul Whelan was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in December 2018 while Donald Trump was President. Whelan was accused of espionage.
At the time of his arrest, there were uncorroborated reports he was caught receiving a digital storage device containing a list of intelligence officials. Whelan was a civilian at the time, having been dishonorably discharged by the USMC in 2008 over attempted larceny and other crimes.
He was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor by the Russian court.
Democratic President Joe Biden said last week "sadly and for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul's case differently than Brittney's" and refused to include Paul Whelan in the prisoner exchange for a convicted Russian arms trafficker. The failure to secure Whelan's release generated immediate outrage among conservatives.
But according to David Whelan—Paul Whelan's twin brother—that outrage is entirely performative.
He pointed to a recent statement from Trump asserting Paul Whelan was the victim of a "one-sided transaction" despite the fact Whelan was arrested and sentenced when Trump was still in office. Trump also claimed he turned down a deal to secure Whelan's release even though former national security official Fiona Hill said Trump was “not particularly interested” in freeing Whelan at all.
David Whelan wrote:
"Former President Trump appears to have mentioned my brother Paul Whelan's wrongful detention more in the last 24 hours than he did in the 2 years of his presidency in which Paul was held hostage by Russia (zero)."
"I don't suggest he cares now any more than he did then (zero)."
You can see David Whelan's tweet below.
David Whelan's remarks come as the Whelan family continues to publicly and vocally support the Biden administration for securing Griner's release.
Elizabeth Whelan, the sister to David and Paul, called it "distressing" that "people can’t do the math and realize that Trump was the President when Paul was arrested—and that he was the President for the next two years."
Many joined David Whelan in criticizing the GOP's hypocrisy.
Griner, a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), was detained by Russian customs after cartridges containing less than an ounce of hashish oil for personal use were found in her luggage.
American officials expressed concern Russia was using her as leverage in response to the Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. News outlets reported over the summer the American government offered to swap Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker.
Ultimately, Russia agreed to swap Griner for Bout, an entrepreneur and former Soviet military translator who reportedly used his multiple air transport companies to smuggle weapons since the collapse of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East during the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2011, Bout was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles and providing aid to a terrorist organization. He was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment and had served 11 years of his sentence.
These facts enraged right-wingers who suggested Griner deserved to stay in Russia and President Biden should have prioritized securing the release of Whelan and Marc Fogel, a teacher who was arrested and later sentenced for trying to enter Russia with about half an ounce of medical marijuana he had been prescribed in the U.S. for chronic pain.