As WNBA star Brittney Griner appeals to Joe Biden for enable in receiving unveiled from Russian custody, her case is a “top priority” for the president, according to the White Residence.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre advised reporters during a briefing on Tuesday that Biden browse Griner’s handwritten letter, which was despatched to the White House on Monday, and her be aware was “extremely private” to him.
“I am not going to share any personal interaction that I had with the president,” Jean-Pierre told ABC Information when asked about Biden’s reaction.
“I just desired to ensure that he did browse the letter. And I will say once more, this is quite particular to him. Specifically when anyone writes a letter in such a private way … we have made this a precedence,” she added.
Jean-Pierre wouldn’t say irrespective of whether Biden was likely to respond to Griner’s letter.
Griner personally achieved out to Biden, urging him to assistance get her out of Russia — the place she has been held for some 5 months for allegedly possessing cannabis oil — in accordance to her representatives.
In the handwritten letter from Griner, parts of which have been produced community, she expressed fears she will be held in Russia “for good.”
“As I sit right here in a Russian jail, by itself with my views and without the protection of my wife, family members, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I am terrified I could be here without end,” Griner wrote to the president.
The athlete was checking out Russia to enjoy basketball in the off-time when she was detained at Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport on Feb. 17 after staying accused of obtaining vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in the country.
Griner’s detention was prolonged continuously, most recently by way of Dec. 20, which is the envisioned duration of her demo. If convicted, Griner, 31, faces up to 10 years in jail.
“It hurts contemplating about how I usually rejoice [the Fourth of July] since liberty usually means a little something totally diverse to me this yr,” Griner wrote in her letter to Biden.
Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner, earlier told “Very good Early morning The us” co-anchor Robin Roberts in May possibly that she would like to converse with the president.
“I just retain hearing that, you know, he has the electricity. She’s a political pawn,” Cherelle Griner reported. “So if they are keeping her simply because they want you to do some thing, then I want you to do it.”
At Tuesday’s briefing, Jean-Pierre would not say whether or not the White Dwelling was taking into consideration a conference with Brittney Griner’s family members, but she explained that both of those Secretary of Point out Anthony Blinken and White House countrywide stability adviser Jake Sullivan have spoken to Cherelle Griner and the administration will continue to keep “open communication and have really honest conversations with them.”
“I just don’t have everything to share on what conversation the president’s going to have with Mrs. Griner and her household,” Jean-Pierre explained to ABC News when questioned about a probable meeting. “All I can validate is that he’s read the letter, and he’s building this a precedence.”
Final Friday marked the first day of Griner’s trial in Russia.
The Phoenix Mercury star appeared in particular person at a courtroom in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, ABC News noted.
The U.S. authorities categorized Griner’s situation on Might 3 as “wrongfully detained,” indicating the U.S. will extra aggressively work to negotiate her launch even as the authorized case towards her plays out, the Condition Department has mentioned.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began a person 7 days right after Griner was detained. Some officials are involved that Us citizens jailed in Russia could be employed as leverage in the ongoing conflict.
Griner’s spouse and children and pals collected at a vigil outside the house the Russian consulate in New York Metropolis ahead of her demo very last week, calling on the U.S. to provide her residence. Her next court docket physical appearance is on Thursday.
Leaders and gamers in both equally the WNBA and the NBA have also known as for Griner’s launch and lifted recognition about her scenario, as have advocates.
The WNBA, which kicked off its 2022 year on May well 6, is honoring Griner with a floor decal bearing her initials and jersey range (42) on the sidelines of all 12 WNBA teams.
The 6-foot-9 center won an NCAA title at Baylor in 2012 a WNBA title with Phoenix, her recent group, in 2014 and gold medals with the U.S. women’s team at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
Civil legal rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton claimed he desires Biden and Blinken to arrange a trip for religion leaders to see Griner in prison as part of a prayer visit.
“Following speaking with her spouse past week, I am deeply concerned for Brittney Griner’s physical, psychological, and religious wellbeing,” Sharpton reported in a statement on Tuesday.
“She justifies to see the United States is undertaking some thing for her, so she can locate the strength as this show demo goes on,” he said.
The community marketing campaign to free of charge Griner escalated subsequent the launch of U.S. Maritime veteran Trevor Reed in April, who was freed from a Russian jail as component of a prisoner trade. Former Marine Paul Whelan has also been detained in Russia considering that 2019.
Jean-Pierre on Tuesday reported that the Biden administration was functioning on both of those Griner and Whelan’s conditions just as hard as it accomplished to safe Reed’s liberty.
“We are heading to make this happen,” she stated.
An intercontinental prisoner swap potentially involving Griner, Whelan and convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been mentioned, in accordance to Russian media studies, but it is really unclear if there has been any sizeable movement on the challenge. Russian officers have also indicated that they want Griner to stand trial.
Questioned about a likely swap, Jean-Pierre said she “are not able to talk to any conversations” concerning the process of securing the release of any American detained overseas.
Point out Section spokesperson Ned Rate mentioned that secrecy is crucial to ensure that initiatives to protected the launch of Griner and some others detained abroad are not jeopardized.
“Even though we update family members — and absolutely in broad strokes — on our initiatives, it’s not something that we are in a place to converse to publicly in any detail,” Price explained to reporters on Tuesday.
“We do not want to do just about anything, we do not want to say something, that would potentially jeopardize the prospects of looking at an American unveiled or that would delay by a solitary working day, a one hour or a one moment the risk-free return of an American to her his family and cherished types back in this article,” Selling price added.
ABC News’ Shannon Crawford, Ben Gittleson, Molly Nagle and Tanya Stukalova contributed to this report.