Cherelle Griner Finally Got a Call From the White House

Brittney Griner’s wife has been requesting to speak to the Biden administration for months.

Cherelle Griner Finally Got a Call From the White House
Photo:AP/Getty Images

Two days after President Joe Biden received a gutting handwritten letter from WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is wrongfully detained in Russia, the White House announced that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have finally spoken to Griner’s wife, Cherelle, over the phone.

“The President called Cherelle 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 US nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world. He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today,” the White House said, without disclosing what the letter to Griner said on Wednesday. The White House added that Biden “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.”

Biden also mandated his team to stay in “regular contact” with the Griners, according to CNN, likely in response to a recent botched phone call. Cherelle Griner detailed her frustration to the Associated Press after the US Embassy was not properly staffed to connect a call between Cherelle and Brittney. The couple have not spoken on the phone in over 130 days; they’ve only been able to exchange handwritten letters. Cherelle has been outspoken over the last several weeks regarding her distrust for the current administration and its ability to bring her wife home, as they’ve repeatedly promised they would.

Brittney Griner’s criminal trial kicked off last week in a courtroom just outside of Moscow. Griner has been detained in Russia as a political prisoner for over 130 days and is currently on trial for drug smuggling charges, though she was initially arrested for transporting vape cartridges containing trace amounts of cannabis.

Though no other details from Biden’s call with Cherelle have yet been released, it’s reasonable to suspect the administration had finally bowed due to building public pressure over the last few months, including multiple interviews in which Cherelle has been critical of the government’s handling of her wife’s detainment. Brittney’s letter, which was sent privately to the President but released in portions on the 4th of July by her team, may have also pushed the administration to get in touch with Griner’s family.

“…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 in the letter. “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. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now.”

Griner’s trial is set to continue Thursday, although she is likely to be convicted by a Russian judicial system more interested in conviction counts than justice.

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