The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Biden Assures Brittney Griner's Wife He's Working on Player's Release

Joe Biden and Brittney Griner

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, Wednesday and assured her they are working on the basketball star’s release, White House officials said.

Biden also read Cherelle Griner a draft of a letter he has written to Brittney Griner, who has been jailed in Russia since February. The Phoenix Mercury center was arrested at an airport in the nation, where she was planning to play for a Russian team during the WNBA off-season, on charges that she possessed vape cartridges containing hashish oil, considered an illegal substance in Russia. Her trial began last week. The U.S. government has said she is “wrongfully detained.”

She sent a letter to Biden, which arrived Monday, saying, “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.”

Biden called Cherelle Griner “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,” said a White House press release. “He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney today.” Whelan is detained in Russia on espionage charges.

“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 release continued. “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.”

Sullivan had addressed Brittney Griner’s situation while speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One last week, the Washington Blade notes. “So first, Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained, and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan said. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

He and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken with Cherelle Griner to “convey our very deep sympathy, to convey that, you know, we just can’t even begin to imagine what the family must be going through, what Brittney — what Brittney must be going through.”

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