Trump administration veterans criticize him for saying Putin would free an American prisoner if he won

WASHINGTON – National security officials from the former Trump administration accuse the ex-president of interfering in delicate negotiations over the hostage-taking of Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, imprisoned in Russia on last year.

Donald Trump has promised that Gershkovich would be released after his election, which veterans of his own White House say could delay the journalist’s freedom and undermine American democracy by encouraging Russia to detain Gershkovich until after the election to help the Trump campaign. Russia has accused the journalist of espionage, which his family, his employer and President Biden say are false.

In a campaign ad released Tuesday, Trump boasts that if he beats Biden in November, Russia Gershkovich will return quickly.

“Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter detained by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the election, but certainly before I take office,” Trump said, speaking directly to the camera and flanked by two American flags . “He’ll be home.” He will be safe.

June 13, 2023; New York, New York, United States; Fans display a banner in support of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested by Russian authorities during the third inning of the MLB game between the New York Mets and the New York Yankees at Citi Field. Mandatory credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

“Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do this for me – and I don’t think he will do it for anyone else,” Trump adds. “And we won’t pay anything. Biden likes to pay massive amounts of money. We won’t pay anything.

This statement could signal to Putin that Trump wants to use the imprisoned journalist as a campaign issue.

“Trump’s comments killed any negotiations to secure (Gershkovich’s) release until after the election,” said Alexander Vindman, former director for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Russia at the Security Council. National White House under the Trump administration.

Putin will not release Gershkovich for free to anyone, including Trump, predicted Vindman, who also served as head of political-military affairs for Russia to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Putin will only do this as a quid pro quo for people he wants to release from prisons in the United States or allied countries, Vindman said.

“Trump,” Vindman added, “would likely respond to the hostage exchange demands on Putin’s wish list to make that boast come true.” »

“So many things wrong with this”

Fiona Hill, another Russia expert on Trump’s National Security Council, said Trump’s comments undermined U.S. national security in several ways.

“There are so many things wrong with this,” said Hill, who said he worked on negotiations with Russia for the release of falsely imprisoned Americans during his tenure in the Trump White House.

“It’s a classic boast from him, claiming to have a special relationship with Putin,” Hill said. “But it’s playing…

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