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Report: White House Makes Exchange Offer With Russia for Brittney Griner

The U.S. has made a prisoner exchange offer to Russia for WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American, according to CNN

Viktor Bout, who is a convicted Russian arms dealer, is reportedly part of the possible exchange deal as well as American Paul Whelan, who is being held by the Russian government. President Joe Biden does support the swap of  Bout for Griner and Whelan, who has been held since 2018 over espionage allegations, reportedly overriding any possible opposition from the Department of Justice. The DOJ is routinely against prisoner trades. 

A senior administration official said to CNN on Wednesday, “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.” They later added that it’s up to Russia “to be responsive to it, yet at the same time that does not leave us passive, as we continue to communicate the offer at very senior levels.”

Griner has been detained for more than 100 days in Russia for allegedly carrying vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage while at an airport near Moscow. She pleaded guilty to the charges and could face up to 10 years in prison. 

The Phoenix Mercury standout testified in court on Wednesday, and according to the Associated Press, “a language interpreter provided during her questioning translated only a fraction of what was said and officials instructed her to sign documents without providing an explanation.”

Griner maintained that she did not know how the cannabis oil, which she does have a doctor’s recommendation for, ended up in her luggage; however, she explained how she quickly packed “while under great stress,” per the AP. She stated that she was not offered access to lawyers or informed of her rights. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is going to speak with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and demand Griner and Whelan’s release, he said in a briefing Wednesday. Blinken added that they “put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago” to help with the release, which is the first public acknowledgment of the proposal. According to the AP, if the call takes place, it will be the first between Blinken and Lavrov since a week prior to Russia invading Ukraine in February.