The Russian government has arrested an American named Paul Whelan, and is accusing him of being a spy. Whelan’s family claims he was merely in Russia to attend a wedding, and while we don’t have confirmation of this, we have absolutely no reason to believe Vladimir Putin’s version of events. The thing is, the U.S. has to find a way to secure Whelan’s release, and of course that brings us to Donald Trump’s status as a Kremlin puppet.
It’s not difficult to figure out what Russia is hoping to gain here. By essentially taking an American hostage, Putin has put himself in position to potentially trade Paul Whelan back to the U.S. in exchange for someone he wants. It’s also fairly easy to take that a step further and parse that he probably wants confessed Russian spy Maria Butina set free in exchange.
That won’t happen, as Butina is a star cooperating witness in a federal investigation into how the Kremlin compromised the Republican Party and the NRA for the purpose of rigging the 2016 election. If Donald Trump tries to trade Butina for Whelan, the Feds will ultimately find a way to prevent him from doing it. The larger question is whether Trump will try to make a trade for Whelan, and whether he’d be willing to give up someone less important than Butina to make it happen. That brings us to a social media post that Whelan appears to have made last year.
It very much looks like Paul Whelan announced in 2017 that he is in fact a Donald Trump supporter. Why does this matter? It shouldn’t. But we’ve consistently seen Trump give special treatment to his own supporters in every way possible, in ways big and small; he’s just that narcissistic. So yeah, it’s fair to assume that Trump will be more eager to give something up to rescue Whelan, simply because Whelan is one of his supporters. The question is whether Putin knew this about Whelan when he decided to target him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report