OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Cherelle Griner, the wife of imprisoned WNBA player Brittney Griner, met with President Joe Biden last week.
Cherelle spoke with reporters after the meeting and noted that the White House said it is doing everything it can to help Griner and Paul Whelan’s family.
“Cherelle’s sense after meeting with Biden was that negotiations have been very complex but that Biden is determined to get a deal done,” CNN’s Abby Phillip wrote.
“I don’t think they have quite figured out exactly what Russia wants in return for BG,” Cherelle said, per Phillip.
Cherelle said she has exchanged a few letters with Griner during her imprisonment in Russia and that she believes things have taken a “dark turn.”
“She’s not well, Cherelle told Phillip. “She’s losing it.”
Cherelle also released a statement of her own following the Biden meeting.
“I’ve felt every minute of the grueling seven months without her,” she said. “I look forward to the day my wife is back home. As my family and I continue on this journey, I’d like to thank the broad coalition of friends, leaders, and supporters who continue to stand with us and advocate for Brittney’s swift and safe return. Let’s share a unified commitment to bringing all Americans home to their families and loved ones. Together We Are BG.”
Cherelle has been exchanging letters from BG during her imprisonment in Russia. But recently those letters have taken a dark turn. “She’s not well,” Cherelle told me. "She’s losing it.”
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) September 17, 2022
Over the summer, a Russian court found Griner guilty on drug smuggling and possession charges.
She was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison after a month-long trial and nearly six months after the basketball player was arrested at a Russian airport with cannabis in her luggage.
Russia has confirmed that it is in talks to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, the notorious “Merchant of Death” arms dealer who has been imprisoned in the United States since 2010.
According to the New York Times, talks about exchanging Griner for the Russian terrorist are becoming more open.
High-ranking Russian diplomat Aleksandr Darchiev said political negotiations with the U.S. are underway.
“The discussion of the quite sensitive topic of prisoner exchange of Russian and American citizens has been ongoing along the channels set out by the two presidents,” Darchiev told Russian state media.
Notably, then-Attorney General Eric Holder in November 2011 described Bout as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers” who allegedly tried to “sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”
“Today, one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past,” Holder said after Bout was convicted on terrorism charges. “Viktor Bout’s arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades. Today, he faces the prospect of life in prison for his efforts to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”
A former DEA agent slammed the potential deal, calling it “dangerous” for the United States.
Rob “Zach” Zachariasiewicz wrote an op-ed for USA Today and warned against making a trade of Bout for Griner.
“Bout, who is known as the “Merchant of Death,” provided the fuel for conflicts across the globe. He was a critical player in the global illicit arms trade not because he could obtain weapons but because he could deliver his destructive cargo anywhere in the world through his control of a private fleet of military aircraft. And he did just that,” the former DEA agent said.
“A tremendous amount of resources and political capital were spent on the critical national security investigation into Bout’s actions. Lives were placed at risk, and tireless efforts were made. Now many voices are not being adequately considered in these deliberations over whether to free Bout in exchange for an American. Those voices include an entire generation of maimed and orphaned inhabitants of war-torn countries throughout the world, especially in Africa,” he said.
“In a recorded undercover meeting, he declared to persons he believed to be terrorist facilitators that the United States was his sworn enemy. He offered them, as part of an extensive arsenal of heavy weapons, hundreds of surface-to-air missiles to be used against U.S. military advisers and the Colombian military,” the former agent said.
“Negotiating for Bout’s release is a feckless and shortsighted foreign policy. Such actions merely encourage our adversaries to engage in the kidnapping, illegal detention, and ransoming of American citizens throughout the world. Organizations such as Hezbollah, drug cartels, and the Russian Federal Security Service are emboldened when their criminal actions are rewarded. We must make abundantly clear that there is nothing to be gained by engaging in these criminal actions,” he said
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “We are ready to discuss this topic but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by presidents Putin and Biden. If the Americans decide to once again resort to public diplomacy, that is their business and I would even say that it is their problem.”
— New York Post (@nypost) July 31, 2022
Who is Viktor Bout, Russia's 'Merchant of Death' who could be freed in prisoner swap for Brittney Griner? https://t.co/VUlM2VWouf
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 28, 2022