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Tipsheet

Oh, So This Is Who Brittney Griner's Fate Depends on Now

AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File

The Biden administration, after botching yet another conversation with the Russians over the incarceration of WNBA player Brittney Griner, hasn't shown any recent progress in its attempts to secure the release of the American sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. 

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The Biden administration prematurely announced the terms of a prisoner swap that would allow Griner and fellow American detainee Paul Whelan to return home in exchange for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout who is serving a quarter-century sentence in an Illinois prison some 300 miles south of Chicago near Marion. 

Once the deal was made public by the Biden administration — along with opposition to the proposed swap from the Department of Justice — Russia balked and decided to throw Griner in prison anyway.

Griner's new and apparently best hope, following the Biden administration's failure, is a familiar face for those who've followed unofficial American diplomacy — Dennis Rodman, the U.S. pseudo-Ambassador to North Korea. 

Rodman, the former NBA player who credits himself for securing the release of American Kenneth Bae from custody in NoKo, said over the weekend that he's gotten permission from Russian officials to visit the country to discuss Griner's incarceration. "I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl" and is "trying to go this week," he told NBC News

Rodman boasted that he knows Vladimir Putin "too well," but the White House is none too pleased with Rodman's self-starting diplomatic efforts. 

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According to Rolling Stone, "a Biden administration official noted the U.S. is already working to strike a deal with Russia to secure Griner’s release and warned of complications that might arise if anyone else wormed their way into the proceedings." The official noted that "it’s public information that the administration has made a significant offer to the Russians and anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder release efforts."

But the White House has failed to stop Griner from going to trial, being sentenced, and getting thrown in prison — their channels didn't and aren't working this far, so is Rodman going really that much of a problem? Perhaps it's that the White House is worried they'll be embarrassed by Rodman's success after their botched deal fell apart?

NBC News noted that "Rodman has cultivated a relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the past decade, making multiple visits to the hermit kingdom" and "called Russian President Vladimir Putin 'cool' after a 2014 trip to Moscow." Rodman even "showed up on the sidelines of former President Donald Trump's meeting with Kim in Singapore" in 2018. 

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