President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris told the wife of Brittney Griner in a phone conversation Wednesday that they are working to free the WNBA star from a Russian jail, where she has been held since February, the White House said.
Cherelle Griner said on “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday that she hadn’t heard from the administration since her wife was taken into custody at an airport near Moscow on drug charges.
“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 US 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 Griner today,” the White House said.
Brittney Griner wrote a letter to Biden that was delivered to the White House for the Independence Day holiday. It was a plea to Biden to work on her case and also to assist other Americans held in Russia.
“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,” Griner wrote, according to excerpts of the letter released by her representatives on Monday.
“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,” Griner wrote. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. 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 White House said Biden told Cherelle Griner that the administration is pursuing “every avenue to bring Brittney home.”
Griner, 31, is on trial in Russia, where she has been accused of smuggling a narcotic substance — which allegedly was cannabis oil — and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Frustration is growing within the WNBA that more is not being done to bring home Griner, an All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury.
“If it was LeBron (James), he’d be home, right?” Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said Monday. “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a Black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.”
–Field Level Media