Even Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized Bout's release, calling it a "deeply disturbing decision."
What did Kirby say?
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Kirby emphasized that while the Biden administration is not necessarily happy over Bout's release, the infamous international arms dealer was eventually going to be freed.
"Mr. Bout wasn't serving a life sentence," Kirby said. "He was going to get out in 2029. So, at some point in the not too distant future, he would have been a free man — it is six years earlier.
"Nobody over at the White House is doing backflips of joy that he is walking the streets," he added. "But this was the deal we could get. Now was the moment we could get it."
Kirby claimed the Biden administration conducted a "national security assessment" on the implications of releasing Bout and concluded "that whatever risk there is was manageable and OK to make this deal."
"We're obviously going to look after our national security going forward and Mr. Bout has choices to make," Kirby said. "If he chooses to get back into that line of work, then we're going to do everything we can to hold him properly accountable, as we have in the past."
Unfortunately, Kirby did not explain how the U.S. government might respond if Bout returns to his old line of work.
Viktor Bout has a choice to make: John Kirbywww.youtube.com
In a separate interview on ABC News' "This Week," Kirby directly responded to critics.
"They weren’t in the room. They weren’t on the phone," Kirby said. "They weren’t watching the incredible effort and determination by [Roger] Carstens and his team to try to get both Paul and Brittney out together. I mean, in a negotiation, you do what you can. You do as much as you can. You push and you push and you push, and we did."
Despite Kirby's confidence in the deal, top Defense Department officials are privately sounding the alarm that Bout will return to criminal activity.
"I think there is a concern that [he] would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past," one senior Pentagon official told Politico.