Biden reassures Brittney Griner’s wife US is working to secure her release from Russia ‘as soon as possible’
Brittney Griner’s wife finally received a call from President Joe Biden on Wednesday to talk about getting the WNBA superstar out of Russia, where she has been detained since February.
Cherelle Griner and Biden spoke about the Phoenix Mercury player, the White House said in a release. Biden reassured Cherelle that the U.S. is “working to security Brittney’s release as soon as possible.”
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WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022. – Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence.
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)
“President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, spoke today with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner who is wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances,” a White House readout of the call said. “The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world. He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney today.
“The President offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home. Today’s call follows calls that National Security Advisor Sullivan and Secretary of State Blinken have had with Cherelle in recent weeks and this past weekend. The President directed his national security team to remain in regular contact with Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and with other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as quickly as possible.”
Brittney Griner, #42 of the Phoenix Mercury, kisses her wife Cherelle Griner in the stands after the Mercury defeated the Las Vegas Aces 87-84 in Game Five of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs semifinals to win the series at Michelob ULTRA Arena on October 8, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Cherelle had been critical of the White House for not hearing from Biden. She appeared on “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday and said initially she was told to stay quiet while officials worked behind the scenes. She said since her wife, who she wed in 2017, had been detained for more than 140 days, she was not going to stay quiet anymore.
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Griner addressed a letter to Biden and his administration earlier in the week asking U.S. officials not to forget about her and other Americans detained overseas.
“… As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” the WNBA superstar wrote.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
Fans hold signs supporting Brittney Griner, #42 of the Phoenix Mercury, during the game against the Los Angeles Sparks on July 4, 2022 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California.
(Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Griner pleaded with Biden to use his presidential powers to ensure her return. She was arrested in February for allegedly bringing vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport.
“Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020, and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore,” the letter read in part. “I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
Griner is in the middle of a trial that began Friday to determine her fate. Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted and, unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned.
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She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.