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house Bill H. Res. 552

Should Russia Release U.S. Citizen Paul Whelan?

Argument in favor

American citizen Paul Whelan has been wrongfully detained since December 2018. The lack of evidence in his case, along with his reported poor health, justifies his release. The House should join the State Dept. in calling on Russia to either produce evidence or release Whelan.

Argument opposed

The Russian government says it caught Whelan red-handed in espionage activities. If this is true, and Whelan was engaging in anti-government activities, the House isn’t justified in calling for Whelan’s release.

simple resolution Progress

  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Foreign Affairs
    IntroducedSeptember 11th, 2019

What is House Bill H. Res. 552?

This resolution would express the sense of the House that the Russian Federation should either provide evidence of wrongdoing or else release United States citizen Paul Whelan. Additionally, this resolution also calls for due process for Whelan and unrestricted access to consular service for him. 

As a simple resolution, this legislation is non-binding and wouldn’t advance beyond the House if passed.


The House; U.S.-Russia relations; Russia; and Paul Whelan.

Cost of House Bill H. Res. 552

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) introduced this resolution to call on the Russian Federation to provide evidence of wrongdoing or else release United States citizen Paul Whelan (who is a resident of Rep. Stevens’s district). After this resolution passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Stevens said

“The Foreign Affairs Committee moved quickly and unanimously to advance this important resolution and this is a good thing. For months, we have asked for the Russian government to give Paul Whelan a fair and transparent judicial process to no avail. It is unacceptable that Paul has been held for so long without full consular access and without being able to speak to his family, all while his health continues to deteriorate. If Russia cannot produce any evidence after keeping an American citizen detained for nine months, they should release him immediately and let him come home and get the medical care he needs.”

At this resolution’s markup in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said in his opening statement

“H.Res 552 calls on the Russian government to provide evidence or release Mr. Whelan so he can come home to the United States and receive the proper medical treatment he so urgently needs. Every day he spends in that Russian prison is yet another day spent suffering. This is yet another reminder of the kind of leader Putin is—and something we should all keep in mind. I strongly support this measure and I want to thank Representative Stevens for her hard work to seek justice for Paul Whelan and his family.”

This resolution unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee with the support of 17 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 10 Democrats and seven Republicans. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), has two Democratic Senate cosponsors.

Of NoteAmerican citizen Paul Whelan has been detained since Russia since his arrest on December 29, 2018. He was in Russia for a friend’s wedding. The Russian Federation accuses Whelan of spying and maintains that those claims have not been denied by the U.S. Russian officials allege that Whelan was caught carrying a flash drive containing classified information. This could carry a sentence of up to 20 years.

At a press briefing, state-run media reported that Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, said, “The fact of Whelan’s spying activities has been properly documented, and, remarkably, it has never been refuted by U.S. officials during our working contacts.”

Whelan denies being a spy. He claims he was “set up” by a longtime acquaintance employed by Russian security services. In a September 2019 court hearing, Whelan said it is “ridiculous” to claim he has ties to U.S. intelligence and said, “This case is an absurd provocation. No evidence of crime exists.” He has also called himself the victim of “an absurd political kidnapping."

Whelan’s siblings have been working multiple angles to secure his release. His brother David Whelan says, “Paul is isolated and ill, deprived of any norms of due process and basic human rights. He's done nothing wrong and he should come home now.” In mid-October 2019, Axios reported that Trump’s former former Pennsylvania campaign director, David Urban, will be joining efforts to secure Whelan’s release by working pro-bono for his family.

Paul Whelan has asked for a public sign of support from the U.S. administration or for President Donald Trump to take a personal interest in his case. However, this has been to no avail. Expressing his disappointment about President Trump not raising Whelan’s detainment with Russian President Vladimir Puting at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, David Whelan said, “[T]o not have a public statement of support that Paul is wrongfully detained in Russia is hard to bear."

Reports have emerged of Whalen’s declining health and poor treatment in imprisonment. In July 2019, David Whelan said his brother needed a doctor who can speak to him in English and communicate with him about his health conditions in order to get an actual assessment of his condition. He said that at present, his brother was “only getting a first-aid level of help inside the prison." 

On August 23, 2019, an ambulance was called to a Moscow courtroom after Whelan said he’d been injured by a prison guard who forced him to move heavy personal belongings to a new cell. Then, in September 2019, Whelan’s attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said that doctors at Moscow's Hospital #20 confirmed that Whelan was suffering from a hernia. While the hernia wasn’t at an acute stage, doctors offered surgery. However, according to Zherebenkov, Whelan refused the surgery due to mistrust of Russian doctors, choosing instead to manage the pain with medication provided by prison administrators. In October 2019, David Whelan told that the hernia is becoming more severe, as his brother had missed a previously scheduled surgery. 

Both Whelan’s family and his lawyer say his ability to communicate with his family has been limited. Although Russian law allows detainees at least one phone call a month with their families, David Whelan says that his brother has been denied that right

“Paul sought phone call access, but that was denied by FSB investigator Aleksei Khishnyak. We don't think that it would be safe for us to visit Russia while he is in prison, and we have no other way to communicate with him.” 

Zherebenkov notes the barriers to both phone and email communication:

“Because there are no translators at Lefortovo, it is impossible to control what Paul will be talking about with his relatives. Due to such technical reasons, there has not been a single phone call, and there is no such possibility in the future. There is a complication with Paul's mail correspondence with the family due to censorship and translation. There are no translators at Lefortovo, so the warden receives the letters. He then sends them to the FSB investigator, and the investigator sends them to the translator. Then, the entire process repeats in reverse order. This takes up to two months.”

State Dept. officials have repeatedly called on Russia to either produce evidence of Whelan’s alleged crime or release him from custody. On his last day as President Trump’s ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman urged Russia to free Whelan after visiting him at Lefortovo prison in Moscow. Huntsman called for Whelan’s immediate release due to his deteriorating health and prosecutors’ lack of evidence, saying, “I don’t think it makes sense to speculate about politics or the specifics of the case. My main concern is that Paul Whelan has been in prison for nine months without any evidence.”


Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: / Motortion)


Calling on the Government of the Russian Federation to provide evidence of wrongdoing or to release United States citizen Paul Whelan.

Official Title

Calling on the Government of the Russian Federation to provide evidence of wrongdoing or to release United States citizen Paul Whelan.

    Yes, Russia has no right to detain an American citizen. Even if he has done something wrong, the US criminal justice system should handle that.
    Like (5)
    Why impeach: Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, is running a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvents U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President trump. Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas. Look them up. North Korea just tested a submarine launched missile. He just released 10,000 Isis fighters into the world when he betrayed the Kurds. Our allies who have fought against Isis right beside our troops for years. They are being slaughtered right now. All because he has a tower in Istanbul. “The Americans betrayed us. We do not trust them anymore,” she added. These used to be our Kurdish allies that stood against ISIS. He is refusing to comply with the law. He is using the power of the presidency to withhold aide to one of the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet in exchange for political favors in order to sway the 20/20 election. He is acting like a criminal and threatening the life of the whistleblower. Mr. America first is sending troops to Saudi Arabia in support of a murdering dictator who spends millions at his hotels and resorts. Corey Lewandowski testified to congress that trump ordered him to obstruct justice. He is blocking information that pertains to the safety of our country from reaching congress. He has been threatening NOAA, a federal agency, with punishment if they do not disavow the truth and side with his lies. He invited the Taliban to Camp David the week of 9/11. He is a #PussyAssBitch He’s doctoring weather maps to try and prove he’s not an idiot. He has stayed at trump properties 293 days in 3 years, that’s our tax dollars going directly into his pocket. He took money from military daycares to pay for a wall that won’t work and no one wants. The Vice President and the Attorney General are both spending tax payer dollars on trump hotels, lining his pockets and currying his favor. He has privately instructed aides to skirt laws and regulations to get the wall built faster — and told them he will pardon them if necessary. He is pressuring a government agency to give a contract for his wall to a company whose chief executive is a donor to one of his top GOP allies in Congress. He took hundreds of millions from 127 different projects (FEMA being one of those) for his wall. He thinks nuking a hurricane is an idea. He is host the next G-7 at one of his own resorts. Again our tax dollars paying him directly. He taunted Iran by tweeting a classified image of an Iranian rocket that had exploded, thereby potentially compromising U.S. intelligence capabilities. His own company would save millions from the low interest rates he is demanding. He was going to give you tax cuts through your paychecks but decided not to. This year the richest of us payed less in taxes than the rest of us. He is destroying the economy with HIS trade war. We will soon average a 1.2 trillion deficit. He is repeating NRA talking points on background checks so expect no action taken regardless of the fact there has been 27 arrested over threats to commit mass attacks since El Paso( NOT TOLEDO). He made fun of republicans being afraid of the NRA and then caved after a 30 minute phone conversation with them. He bragged about indefinite child detention because it brings families together. He is refusing flue shots, that protect us all(google influenza pandemic), to immigrant children. He is attacking fellow congresswomen in really disgusting ways and making anti-Semitic remarks about Jews calling them disloyal. He thinks he’s the chosen one based on a conspiracy theory web sight. He has: Obstructed Justice. Is profiting from the Presidency. Colluded - They had a meeting & lied about it. Advocated political & police violence. Abuse of power. Engaging in reckless behavior. Persecuting political opponents. Attacking the free press. Violating immigrants Right to Due Process. Violating campaign finance laws. Racist: Speaks directly to and often tweeting straight from white supremacists. Calls them very fine people. Told fellow congresswomen to go back where they came from. Called them shit hole countries. Called them murderers and rapists. Calls her Pocahontas. Took out full page adds calling for the death of five innocent black kids in New York, 1989. Literally has said in an interview he has Hitlers speeches, My New Order in his nightstand. Our Money: Spent campaign finance money on hush payments to silence a porn star he had an affair with in order to hide it from the voters. Has spent over $100 million of our tax dollars playing golf at his own golf courses. Has never divested from companies and advertises and profits off the White House. Was going to cut Medicaid and Medicare funding to pay for the tax cuts he gave to the rich. Is actively destroying farmers lives with his trade wars that we all know only hurts our pockets not Chinas. Has made the lives of every truck driver across America as well as our own, more dangerous by removing safety regulations that only benefits the pockets of the CEOs of those companies. Has removed any and all protections we had in place from work safety, environment, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and gives that power back to the CEOs, oil companies, men and old white men. Saudi funded lobbyist rented 500 rooms at a trump hotel he never divested from right after he became president. Wonder why? Sexual Predator: Accused by more than 20 women of molestation and rape. Bragged about said molestation on tape. Has cheated on all three wives (see above). Has made sexual remarks on camera about his daughter. Belittles and bully’s women. Not even sure he’s aware he has two daughters. Has allowed North Korea to grow there nuclear weapons program. Took the side of Putin over America’s own security agencies on the national stage. Lacks the intelligence and facts needed to communicate on a global level much less national one. Makes policy decisions based on FOX media. Lies when speaks. Doesn’t believe in science and quite often displays his ignorance of it. Russia: Lied about meetings with Russians. Lied about a trump tower Moscow. Personal attorney Michael Cohen (same guy who broke campaign finance laws under trumps direction) had contacts with russian officials. National Security aide Flynn resigned over Russian contacts. Jeff Sessions recused himself because of Russian contacts. Manafort resigned because of Russian contacts. Campaign foreign policy adviser Papadopoulos met with Russians then bragged about it to Australians who then turned that info over to our FBI. Sixteen campaign officials had contacts with Russia and at least nine others new about it. Russian mobster lived in trump tower. trump casino was flagged 106 times for lax money laundering standards and same Russian frequently stayed at trump casino. Has been selling real estate to Russians for years. It really is surprising how many connections to Russians this man has. Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Bill Posey You are my representatives. OLC policy: The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. It’s time to do your job. You swore an oath to this country, it’s people and me to uphold the constitution. The president has never upheld that oath. How do you want to be remembered?
    Like (4)
    If there’s proof of espionage, then why don’t they show it to the US government? Russia can’t just be detaining American citizens on speculation.
    Like (3)
    Sounds great but Trump won’t allow crossing Russia as long as they hold his loans and the peepee tape.
    Like (2)
    Russia should release him. However a feel good resolution to go back and tell your constituents that you supported it. Russia will not do anything except laugh at the US. Like it is doing now, throwing our democracy into a whirlwind because of the election and shifty Schiff’s illegal inquiry.
    Like (2)
    I don't care what the situation is, the Russians have defined themselves as our enemy and need to be treated that way. I consider this the person first Prisoner Of Cyber War.
    Like (2)
    Russia has absolutely no hard evidence on this man... release him!
    Like (1)
    Yes, but this is a non-binding vote and no action or relief for him or his family will come of it.
    Like (1)