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There's One Way to Secure a Detained WNBA Star's Freedom, But Will Biden Pull the Trigger?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Did we offer a ransom? That's what went through my head when this story broke. The Biden team reportedly put an offer on the table to secure WNBA star Brittney Griner's release. Griner has been a guest of Russian authorities ever since February. She got arrested on drug charges; Griner had some vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. The charges are legal weak sauce, but Russian-American relations are in tatters. Griner pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this month and now faces up to a decade behind bars. 


Ransom is nothing new. Joe's former boss, Barack Obama, gave the Iranians pallets of cash, franks, and gold to secure the release of four Americans. If we're going to nit-pick here, the plane carrying what could be described as One-Eyed Willy's treasure from "The Goonies" landed as the other plane carrying detained Americans lifted off. Obama-Biden was a gruesome twosome when it came to American weakness abroad. 

Joe is older and more mentally defective, so it's worse. It's also alarming that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a deer in the headlights, gave an update on this situation with Griner. Blinken got paddled by the Chinese at the outset of the Biden presidency. We're letting this guy, who got gutted for all to see, lead point on these negotiations? 

This development is just as reassuring as this administration telling Griner's wife that she would be able to speak to her on their anniversary last June. It never happened because someone at the US Embassy wasn't at the front desk to connect the call. Experts now say that a prisoner exchange is the only way to get Griner out of Russia. Blinken also wouldn't go into details regarding the offer behind Griner's release. Probably a good thing since this White House is anti-Art of the Deal (via NYT): 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States had “put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago” in talks with Russia to gain the release of the detained basketball star Brittney Griner and the former Marine Paul Whelan.

The United States and Russia have “communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference in Washington, declining to discuss the details of the talks. He said he expected to speak soon with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, about the matter.

While Mr. Blinken never said the words “prisoner swap,” many experts have said that such a deal may be the only path for Ms. Griner to obtain her freedom.

Mr. Blinken’s comments came the same day that Ms. Griner, who has been detained in Russia on drug charges, told a court outside Moscow that she had been tossed into a bewildering legal system with little explanation of what was happening and what she might do to try to defend herself.

Mr. Whelan was sentenced last year on espionage charges.

Ms. Griner described arriving in Russia after an exhausting 13-hour flight — and soon after recovering from Covid — and finding herself in an interrogation in which much of what was being said remained untranslated. She said she was also told to sign papers with no explanation of what they were.


Earlier this month, Ms. Griner pleaded guilty, saying that she had made a mistake and had unintentionally carried a banned substance into Russia because she had packed in a hurry. In the Russian legal system, a guilty plea does not end a trial; lawyers for Ms. Griner, who faces a possible 10-year sentence, expect it to continue into August.

Ms. Griner’s lawyers have said they hope her guilty plea will make the court more lenient, but experts say that her best hope is that the Biden administration finds a way to swap her for a high-profile Russian who is being held by the United States.


The Biden White House falls short on everything from the economy to freeing detained Americans. The only thing Biden seems to be good at is catching COVID and sending tons of cash to Ukraine. He can't evacuate Americans from Afghanistan or get inflation under control. He's led this country into an economic recession. Biden can't even ride a bike without falling. 

Ms. Griner, you'll be detained in Russia for much longer. 

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