Day 1258 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - June 8, 2022 - Trades Off the Table #NotAllTools

Our family has advocated for the US government to use every tool at its disposal to secure Paul's freedom.  For better or worse, in this time of state-sponsored hostage taking - by Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, etc. - one of those tools has been trades.  A trade may involve concessions of people exchanged or other things desired by these bad actors. A few weeks ago, we saw that the US government was able to make a concession, bringing Trevor Reed home.  One fewer wrongfully detained American.

But no longer.  As we understand it, the US Department of Justice will not support the release of any foreign nationals in their custody to free wrongfully detained Americans.  It is not just that the Department of Justice has slammed the door on Paul, eliminating that option from the possible approaches the US government might take.  The door was never open.  The Department of Justice was not even willing to concede Konstantin Yaroshenko for Trevor Reed.  That release would not have occurred if President Biden had not made the executive decision to act.

Why is the Department of Justice opposed to helping wrongfully detained Americans?  Who has decided that the DOJ will not work with other parts of the Administration to help people like Paul?  I don't know.  We are at arms-length from the Executive branch agencies who make decisions surrounding concessions and recommend - or not, in the case of the DOJ - possible solutions for wrongful detainees o the President.  We know, from Ambassador John Sullivan's statements to Russian press, that trades have been discussed as recently as the last few months.

That is the worst of it.  The Department of Justice is disengaged from assisting in the process of freeing wrongfully detained Americans.  Their risk-averse approach equates all prisoners in their custody as equal.  It ignores the growing problem that wrongful detention of Americans can often only be solved by making concessions.  The Department of Justice is not part of the solution, any solution.  Diplomatic efforts by the State Department are just so much spitting in the wind if they are undermined at home.

It should not require the President to pry open the prison door of each wrongfully detained American as US agencies hold those doors closed.  Even after 1200 days, Paul's release is as far away as ever if the US government still can't work to find creative solutions for these difficult wrongful detentions.  A trade may or may not ever have helped Paul but, until the DOJ changes its stance, it will never help any of the Americans who have been held for months and years by foreign states.