Trump claims, if elected, Putin will release jailed reporter Evan Gershkovich ‘for me’

Former President Donald Trump said Thursday he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to release jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich if elected, drawing a rebuke from the campaign of President Joe Biden.

Gershkovich “will be released almost immediately after the election, but certainly before I take office,” Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, wrote in a post on his Truth Social platform. “He will be HOME, SAFE AND WITH HIS FAMILY. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do this for me, but not for anyone else, and WE WILL PAY NOTHING!”

TJ Ducklo, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, said the former president “doesn’t care about the innocent Americans unjustly imprisoned” by Putin, citing Trump’s repeated attacks on members of the press.

“Trump called journalists “enemies of the people” and has pledged to jail journalists whose coverage he doesn’t like – which is not that different from what is currently happening to Evan Gershkovich in Russia,” Ducklo said in a statement. He noted that Trump had said he rejected a deal to free former Marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The U.S. government said Gershkovich and Whelan were wrongly detained.

“For Donald Trump, these wrongfully imprisoned Americans are political weapons and props to use for his own gain – for Joe Biden, they are human beings whose loved ones and family members he spent time with,” added Ducklo. “Their release remains an urgent priority, just as it has been for the 60 wrongfully detained or held hostage Americans that President Biden has already brought home since taking office. »

The Trump campaign and the offices of top Republican congressional delegates who have been hawkish on Russia and Putin, including senators. John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reached by NBC News, the offices of Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas and Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee with Young, declined to comment.

It is clear why Trump demanded Gershkovich’s release. Asked about Trump’s comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had “naturally not had contact with Donald Trump,” Reuters reported.

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American citizen, has been imprisoned on espionage charges since late 2023 while working for the Wall Street Journal. Russia has repeatedly extended Gershkovitch’s detention. Russian authorities have provided no evidence to support their accusations of espionage.

Weeks after Gershkovich’s arrest, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference that the administration would do “everything in its power” to bring him home.

President Joe Biden said the United States continues to push for Gershkovich’s release and “to expose and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips.”

“And we will continue to stand firm against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists – the pillars of free society,” Biden said in a statement in March.

Addressing Gershkovich and Whelan directly in his statement, Biden said: “We stand with you. And we will never stop working to bring you home.

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