AP

Biden tells Griner’s wife he’s working to get her home

Jul 5, 2022, 9:41 PM | Updated: Jul 7, 2022, 12:48 pm

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a heari...

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 1, 2022. U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is set to go on trial in a Moscow-area court Friday. The proceedings that are scheduled to begin Friday come about 4 1/2 months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at an airport while traveling to play for a Russian team. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday reassured the wife of detained WNBA player Brittney Griner, who is on trial in Russia, that he is working to win Griner’s freedom as soon as possible, the White House said. Cherelle Griner, who has criticized the way her wife’s case has been handled, said later that she was “grateful” for the outreach but would keep up the public pressure.

Biden’s conversation with Cherelle Griner followed Brittney Griner’s personal appeal to the president in a handwritten letter from the basketball player that the White House received on Monday. Griner said in the letter that she feared she would spend forever in detention in Russia and asked Biden to not “forget about me and the other American Detainees.”

Griner has been detained in Russia for more than four months and is currently on trial, accused of possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

The call was placed as Griner’s family has become more aggressive in pressuring the Biden administration by speaking out about her case, including Brittney Griner’s letter to the president and television interviews by Cherelle Griner, in which she has said she did not think the government was doing enough to bring her wife home.

“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,” the White House said in a statement. “He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today.”

Biden’s call also followed a public plea from more than 1,100 Black female leaders in business, sports, religion, labor, media, civil rights, education, government, entertainment and technology for the administration to “make a deal to get Brittney back home swiftly and safely and to meet with Brittney’s wife Cherelle immediately.”

During the call, Biden offered Griner’s family his support and committed to making sure they receive “all possible assistance” during the administration’s pursuit of Brittney Griner’s release, the White House said.

Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke with Cherelle Griner.

“I am grateful to the both of them for the time they spent with me and for the commitment they expressed to getting BG home,” Cherelle Griner said, using her wife’s initials.

“While I will remain concerned and outspoken until she is back home, I am hopeful in knowing that the President read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond,” she continued in a statement shared on Instagram. “I know BG will be able to find comfort in knowing she has not been forgotten.”

Griner, 31, is in the midst of a trial in Russia that began last week after she was arrested on Feb. 17 on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for her Russian team. She could face 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

The trial was scheduled to resume Thursday. Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted and, unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned.

Cherelle Griner told “CBS Mornings” in an interview Tuesday that it was “disheartening” to her that she had yet to hear from Biden during her wife’s detention.

A representative for Cherelle Griner did not immediately respond to a text message from The Associated Press. The Phoenix Mercury, Brittney Griner’s WNBA team, held a public rally Wednesday night in Phoenix that included several speakers, among them Cherelle Griner.

“I can’t rest as her humanity is being stripped from her,” Cherelle Griner said. “I can’t rest as her safety is in question. I honestly can’t rest until she’s home.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday that Biden “has been clear about the need to see every American who is wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad released, including Brittney Griner.”

“This has been top of mind for the president,” she said. Jean-Pierre added that Biden is updated daily on the status of efforts to win freedom for Brittney Griner and other Americans the U.S. government believes are being wrongfully detained in Russia and elsewhere.

Representatives for Brittney Griner on Monday shared excerpts from her letter to the president.

In one, she wrote, “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 letter was delivered to the White House on the Fourth of July, which Brittney Griner said is a special day for her family.

“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,” the center for the Phoenix Mercury said. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Griner’s supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.

Russian news media have repeatedly speculated that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.

Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner’s case — involving alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil — and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S.

Others have suggested she could be traded along with Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that the U.S. has repeatedly described as a setup.

AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.

To see more AP stories on Griner: https://apnews.com/hub/brittney-griner

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

22 hours ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

3 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

4 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

4 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

5 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

6 days ago

Biden tells Griner’s wife he’s working to get her home