Administration

Biden, Harris speak with wife of Brittney Griner about her detention

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.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press
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.

President Biden and Vice President Harris on Wednesday spoke with the wife of Brittney Griner to offer support as the WNBA star remains detained in Russia.

Biden spoke with Cherelle Griner two days after Brittney Griner wrote a letter to the president expressing her alarm about her ongoing detention. Biden is sending a letter to Brittney Griner in response, the White House said, and he read Cherelle a draft of the letter over the phone.

“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,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

Biden has directed his national security team to remain in regular contact with Griner’s family to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of Brittney Griner and other Americans being wrongfully detained abroad.

Wednesday’s phone call came after Griner’s family had expressed frustration that the White House was not doing more to stay in contact and work to bring Brittney home. Cherelle Griner said in a Tuesday interview with CBS that it was “very disheartening” not to have heard from Biden directly.

Brittney Griner, a center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and an Olympic gold medalist, has been in detention in Russia since February, when authorities allege she was found to have cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces 10 years in prison if convicted in a trial that began last week and is set to resume Thursday.

Brittney Griner wrote to Biden over the weekend, urging him to do all he can to bring her and other detainees home.

“[A]s 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,” Griner wrote to Biden in excerpts of the letter shared publicly.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that she had been in Biden’s presence when he read Griner’s letter and that the president takes the star’s predicament “very personally.”

Jean-Pierre added that Griner’s situation is “a priority” for Biden and that the administration is going to “use every tool” to try to secure her release.

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