President Biden, VP Harris spoke to Brittney Griner’s wife
The White House said that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke Wednesday to the wife of the imprisoned Brittney Griner after reading a letter from the Phoenix Mercury star to the United States president.
Cherelle Griner was told by the president 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,” according to a White House statement.
Biden also read a portion of a letter he will send to Brittney Griner, who remains in a Russian prison on drug possession charges.
Griner’s appeal to the president in a handwritten letter continued to garner reaction Tuesday after the WNBA All-Star acknowledged she feared never returning home and asked Biden to not “forget about me and the other American detainees.”
Griner’s letter was delivered through her representatives to the White House on Monday and officials say the president has read it. However Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said Tuesday on a morning talk show that she hadn’t heard from Biden.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked repeatedly about Griner on Tuesday during the regular briefing. She said Biden read the letter, but she did not detail his reaction.
“This is very personal to him,” Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre said that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken both spoke to Griner’s wife recently.
Jean-Pierre said Biden wanted to get Griner and other Americans home.
“We are going to use every tool we possibly can to make that happen,” Jean-Pierre said.
Brittney Griner 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. The trial will resume Thursday.
Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned.
Griner’s representatives Monday shared a few excerpts from the WNBA player’s letter to the president.
″…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.
“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 Mercury center added. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
Cherelle Griner on Tuesday said she was disappointed not to have any direct communication with the White House since the letter was delivered.
“I still have not heard from him and honestly, it’s very disheartening,” Cherelle Griner said Tuesday on CBS Mornings.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.