- President Joe Biden is set to meet with Brittney Griner’s wife on Friday, the White House said.
- Griner is being detained in a Russian prison after pleading guilty to drug charges.
- The White House in July announced a proposed prisoner exchange, but few details have emerged since.
President Joe Biden will meet with Brittney Griner’s wife on Friday as the WNBA player marks her seventh month detained in Russia, the White House said Thursday, with the president set to demonstrate his “continuing commitment” to secure Griner’s release after weeks with few public updates on the progress.
The planned meeting will be Biden’s first in-person visit with the athlete’s wife, Cherelle Griner, since Brittney Griner was arrested in February when officials alleged they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage at the Moscow airport.
Griner, in July, pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges and was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison in early August. Legal experts told Insider at the time that Griner’s guilty plea was a strategic move in order to try and speed up the process of her return.
The State Department moved her case to the Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs in May, reclassifying her detention as “wrongful.”
The basketball player’s wife, friends, and teammates have been increasingly vocal in trying to secure Griner’s release, calling upon the White House to do more in their efforts to bring her home.
The administration in July said it made a proposal to swap Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has also been wrongfully detained in Russia for nearly four years, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US.
Recent reporting, however, suggests a deal still may be a ways away after a White House official said in August that Russia was trying to tack on an additional convict to the proposed prisoner exchange. The Biden administration hasn’t provided any official updates since its July statements.
“We have followed up on that offer repeatedly and will continue to pursue every avenue to bring them home safely,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.
But whether or not the White House has privately made any headway in securing Griner’s release, public perception of the situation doesn’t look particularly good for the US.
Dani Gilbert, a Fellow in US Foreign Policy and International Security at Dartmouth, told The New Yorker this month that the Russians “have already won.”
Russia’s initial control of relevant information related to Griner’s case allowed the country to take charge of the narrative, leaving the US looking weak, experts told the outlet.
“They have embarrassed the US government. They have put the White House in a particularly difficult position because of a political prisoner, and they’re tapping into cultural conflict,” Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post writer who was wrongfully detained in Iran for more than five hundred days, told The New Yorker. “The fallout here in America — Russia loves it.”
Biden is also set to meet with Whelan’s sister in a separate meeting, Jean-Pierre announced this week.