On Friday, President Biden will meet with the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan concerning a proposed prisoner swap with Russia. It will be the first time he has met the families in person, CNN reports.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would meet separately with Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, and Whelan's sister, Elizabeth Whelan, to reassure them of his administration's commitment to negotiating the release of their loved ones. Jean-Pierre said the president wants them to know the issue remains "front of mind" and that "his team is working on this every day."
The Biden administration has insisted that securing the release of Griner, Whelan, and other Americans wrongfully detained abroad is a top priority. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in July that the U.S. had submitted a proposal to Russian authorities for Griner and Whelan's release. The document included a proposed swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S., per CNN.
Russian officials arrested Griner in February for transporting cannabis oil vape cartridges into the country. The U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning basketball star later plead guilty to the drug charges, and said she accidentally packed the cartridges in her bag. Griner was then fined and sentenced to nine years in prison. Her legal team is appealing the ruling.
Whelan has been detained in Russia for alleged espionage since December 2018.
When asked if there would be any updates for the families come Friday, Jean-Pierre told CNN that the administration "would love to be saying today that we have news about Brittney and Paul coming home today" but "unfortunately, that is not where the negotiations are at this time."