President Biden said this morning that Brittney Griner ‘represents the best of America,’ according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Griner was arrested in Russia in February after bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis oils through a Moscow airport.
On Thursday, nearly 10 months later, Griner was freed from a Russian penal colony as part of a prisoner exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
‘President Biden keeps his promises, and today he fulfilled a deeply important promise to bring Brittney Griner home to a family that loves her, a team that misses her, and a country that has marveled at her strength and courage,’ Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing on Thursday. ‘Brittney’s safe return home is the product of months and months of painstaking negotiations that were the culmination of extraordinary efforts across the U.S. government.’
The press secretary said officials from the White House, the State Department, and across the administration worked ‘tirelessly’ to see Griner’s release.
Jean-Pierre described the six months of negotiations with Russia as intense, as officials sought many different avenues to secure Griner’s release.
‘Throughout her ordeal, we saw Brittney, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for team U.S.A, demonstrate strength, courage, and dignity,’ Jean-Pierre said. ‘As the president said this morning, she represents the best of America.’
Jean-Pierre also said the White House continues to be in touch with Paul Whelan’s family.
Whelan, another American imprisoned in Russia, was not a part of the swap. He has been jailed on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have said are baseless.
‘In recent weeks, it became clear that while Russians were willing to reach an agreement to secure Brittney’s release, they continued to treat Paul Whelan differently, given the nature of the totally illegitimate charges they have levied against Paul,’ Jean-Pierre said. ‘Unfortunately, the choice became to either bring Brittney home or no one.’
While the release of Griner on Thursday made international news, the White House has yet to issue a statement on the death of a Border Patrol agent who was killed in a high-speed pursuit of illegal immigrants in Mission, Texas on Wednesday.
Federal sources said the agent who died was a 38-year-old father of two children.
During the pursuit, the agent crashed the ATV he was driving into a closed fence at full speed.
On Biden’s watch, illegal crossings have broken records month after month.