Updated Sep 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden met with families of Griner and Whelan at White House

Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) basketball player Brittney Griner.
WNBA player Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage after the court's verdict during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on Aug. 4. Photo: Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday met with the families of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan "to reiterate his continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely" from Russian detainment, the White House said.

Why it matters: These are Biden's first in-person meetings with the families of Griner and Whelan. For months, both families have urged the Biden administration to bring their loved ones home.

Driving the news: Biden held separate Oval Office meetings with Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, and Whelan's sister, Elizabeth Whelan, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Friday evening.

  • "The President appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long."
  • "As we have said before, we believe that Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney and Paul under intolerable circumstances," she said on Thursday.
  • "We have been directly engaged with the Russian government through appropriate channels," Jean-Pierre said.

The big picture: The administration in July said that they had made a "substantial proposal" to bring home the two "wrongfully detained" Americans, but there haven't been any public plans since Secretary of State Antony Blinken's comments.

  • "We have followed up on that offer repeatedly and will continue to pursue every avenue to bring them home safely," Jean-Pierre said Thursday.

Go deeper: WNBA star Brittney Griner is "struggling" in Russia, wife says

Editor's note: This story was updated with new details, including a readout of the president's meetings on Friday.

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