Politico

‘They are not doing anything’: Griner’s wife says Biden hasn’t responded to letter


The wife of Brittney Griner on Tuesday said that President Joe Biden still has not responded to the handwritten letter that the basketball star sent to him from detention in Russia on July 4.

“I still have not heard from him. And honestly, it’s very disheartening,” Cherelle Griner told “CBS Mornings” in an interview.

Brittney Griner, a WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist from Texas, has been detained in Russia since February on cannabis possession charges. Her trial began last Friday and is scheduled to resume on Thursday.

Representatives for Brittney Griner on Monday shared excerpts of a letter that she sent to Biden, personally pleading with him to do more to help secure her return to the United States.

“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,” Brittney Griner wrote.

Cherelle Griner said on Tuesday that her wife likely felt compelled to write to Biden “because of the failed attempts that we have had as a family” at advocating for Brittney Griner’s release.

“She’s there,” Cherelle Griner said, “and she knows that we are doing everything that we can in our own strength to ask to meet with the president and to request that they do everything that they can to get her home.”

Cherelle Griner continued: “It kills me every time … when I have to write her, and she’s asking, ‘Have you met with him yet?’ And I have to say, ‘No.’ … I’m sure she’s like, ‘I’m going to write him and ask now, because my family has tried and to no avail. So I’m going to do it myself.’”

Asked to comment on Cherelle Griner’s remarks, the White House shared a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, who said the Biden administration “continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring [Brittney Griner] home.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “have spoken several times with Brittney’s wife recently,” Watson said, and the White House “is closely coordinating” with Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. Carstens “has met with Brittney’s family, her teammates, and her support network,” Watson said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price also said in a statement that Blinken “has spoken to Cherelle in the last several days, and he will continue to remain deeply and personally engaged on this case.”

Despite that outreach, Cherelle Griner criticized the administration’s efforts to negotiate her wife’s release, saying that U.S. officials “are not doing anything.”

“Initially, I was told … ‘We’re going to try and handle this behind [the] scenes.’ And, ‘Let’s not raise her value.’ And, ‘Stay quiet.’ And I did that,” Cherelle Griner said. “And respectfully, we’re over 140 days at this point. That does not work.”

“I will not be quiet anymore,” she added. “I will find that balance of harm versus help in pushing our government to do everything that’s possible. Because being quiet, they are not moving.”

Cherelle Griner has previously complained about the administration’s handling of her wife’s case; she told MSNBC last month that neither Biden nor Vice President Kamala Harris had spoken to her, and she demanded that the State Department “make a deal” for her wife’s release.

Cherelle Griner also told The Associated Press last month that her wife tried to call her 11 times over a period of several hours to mark the couple’s fourth anniversary. But although their conversation had been pre-planned, the couple was unable to connect because the phone line at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was left unstaffed.

Blinken told CNN last month that securing Brittney Griner’s release is an “absolute priority” for the administration, but he offered no details as to how that might happen.

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