WASHINGTON — The latest Texan freed by Russia, Fort Worth native Trevor Reed, has expressed optimism about the release of Houston native and WNBA star Brittney Griner, along with another jailed American, Paul Whelan.
“I’m extremely optimistic about it,” Reed told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday. “I think, you know, if the Russians aren’t stupid, they’ll accept this offer. And, I hope they’re not that stupid, but we’ll see.
Texans in Congress have aggressively pushed the Biden administration to act against detained Americans like what was announced Wednesday: a proposed deal with Russia to bring Griner and Whelan home.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not provide details of the proposed deal, which was proposed weeks ago, though it is unclear whether it will be enough for Russia to free the Americans.
Griner’s a drug possession trial is currently pending in Khimki, Russia. The former Baylor basketball student was first arrested and detained in February.
“Brittney Griner was again in Russian court today,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said. tweeted tuesday. “The results were as usual. Russia dragging out this unfair process; lack of due process; lack of justice, and the trial will continue.
Members of the Texas congressional delegation led bipartisan resolutions in both the House and Senate calling for Griner’s immediate release. Representative Colin Allred, D-Dallas and Jackson Lee introduced the House resolution, and Senator John Cornyn led the resolution in the Senate. Senator Ted Cruz was a co-sponsor.
Both resolutions also express support for Whelan and “all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation”.
“BG and Paul Whelan should be on their way back now! Our US government continues to press forcefully in negotiations for their release and I again call on Russia to release BG and Paul Whelan now!” Jackson Lee tweeted.
Russia has for years expressed interest in the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer once dubbed the ‘merchant of death’, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 for conspiring to illegally sell millions arms dollars.
It remains unclear whether the Biden administration’s proposed deal would involve a trade: Bout for Griner and Whelan. When Reed, a former Marine who spent nearly three years in a Russian prison, was released in April, it was in exchange for a Russian drug trafficker who spent a dozen years in a US prison.
CNN’s Tapper asked Reed what he thought of the Biden administration’s public announcement Wednesday of the Griner/Whelan deal, which contrasts with the secrecy with which the White House staged Reed’s release in april.
“They may be trying to convey that this is something extremely important to this administration,” Reed said. “And I’m glad they’re doing it publicly.”
Paul Whelan’s family also reacted on Wednesday.
“We learn more today about the US government’s attempts to secure the release of Paul and Brittney Griner from wrongful detention by the Russian government. Our family appreciates that the Biden administration is seeking Paul’s release using the resources at their disposal,” David Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother, said in an email to reporters and others after Paul was detained. Paul.
“We hope the Russian government will respond to the US government and accept this concession or any other concession that will allow Paul to return home to his family,” Whelan wrote.
Last week, families with loved ones wrongfully detained overseas gathered in Washington, DC, to unveil a 15-foot-tall mural depicting 18 of their loved ones, installed to raise awareness and pressure the Biden administration. for her to act. The mural included the faces of Griner and Whelan.