UPDATED 1:34 PM PT – Monday, December 12, 2022
The Biden administration says it’s still working on Paul Whelan’s release after it failed to bring him home.
During an interview with ABC News on Monday morning, White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby weighed in on how the negotiations played out.
He maintained they were trying to get Whelan out all the way up until the very last moment when they secured the deal to bring Griner home. Kirby also said the administration is now “more informed” about Russia’s expectations moving forward.
“This business of getting wrongfully detained Americans home, there’s nothing easy about it.” Kirby said, “And there’s very rarely moments where it’s just an ‘aha,’ okay, got it, that’s easy, that’s a no brainer… letting Mr. Bout go six years early, that was not an easy thing to do.”
U.S. officials are reportedly holding meetings on Monday to figure out what the next steps are for his release. These meetings are a routine part of the White House’s “continued work” on the Whelan case.
His case had garnered more attention since the release of Brittney Griner last week. Griner was released as part of a prisoner exchanged for arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is also known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Whelan, a former Marine, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 on espionage charges. He was found guilty of the charges in a closed trial and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He denies the accusations of espionage and U.S. officials have declared his trial as unfair.