'He takes this to heart': Biden has read Brittney Griner's letter, White House says
Griner said in a handwritten letter she was 'terrified' she might be in Russia forever and she called on Biden to do all he could to secure the release of people detained there.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said bringing home Brittney Griner, a WNBA star who is being detained in Russia, is a top priority, the White House said Tuesday, adding the president has read a letter from the basketball player that was delivered on Monday.
“He takes this to heart,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “He takes this job very seriously, especially when it comes to bringing home U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained.”
A hand-written letter from Griner’s representatives was passed on to the White House on Monday. In the letter, Griner expressed her fear that she might stay in prison in Russia forever and called on Biden to use all his power to get her and others who are detained in Russia home.
″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. “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.”
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. and seven-time WNBA All-Star, has been detained in a Russian prison since Feb. 17, when authorities apprehended her at an airport near Moscow and accused her of carrying hashish oil in vape cartridges.
A guilty verdict could carry a sentence of 10 years. Fewer than 1% of Russian defendants are acquitted, according to the Associated Press.
Jean-Pierre noted that White HousNational Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Griner on Saturday, adding that it was the second call with Griner in the last 10 days.
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When asked if the president would personally respond to Griner or if he was in communication with her wife, Jean-Pierre declined to comment.
“The president is going to do everything that he can, in his power to bring her home, along with other US nationals who are being held — wrongfully detained abroad,” she said.
Contributing: Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY and the Associated Press
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_