WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden spoke Wednesday with the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner and also plans to send a letter directly to Griner, according to a summary of the call obtained by NBC News.
The White House said that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Cherelle Griner "to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible." The call came after Brittney Griner sent a handwritten letter to the president pleading for his help to get her released from jail in Russia.
Biden also read Cherelle Griner a draft of the letter he's sending to Brittney Griner on Wednesday, the White House said.
"The President 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," the White House said.
Cherelle Griner previously spoke by phone in recent weeks and over the weekend Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the White House said. Biden also directed his national security team to remain in regular contact with the family and families of other Americans detained around the world, including Paul Whelan, a former security executive who is also detained in Russia.
Biden has been under increasing pressure to demonstrate progress toward her release as she faces a trial for drug smuggling charges. She was detained in Russia in February after authorities said she was in possession of cannabis-derived vape cartridges. Biden received a letter from Griner on Monday, in which she wrote, "I'm terrified I might be here forever." Griner's wife, Cherelle, also has been speaking publicly in recent days, and Rev. Al Sharpton is calling on the Biden administration to help facilitate a visit from him and other religious leaders.
One senior administration official said the U.S. doesn't expect a resolution for Griner before her trial plays out, which is likely to take weeks. At that point, the official said, the administration expects Russian President Vladimir Putin may be ready to negotiate a deal.
Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that the administration has been working aggressively behind the scenes on Griner's release, noting that national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Griner's wife on Saturday for the second time in a couple of weeks. Jean-Pierre declined to say whether the president would accept a prisoner swap as part of a deal for her freedom.