Inside Biden's agonizing decision to take a deal that freed Brittney Griner but left Paul Whelan in Russia

December 09, 2022 at 09:25

“The choice was bringing Brittney Griner home right now, or bringing no one home right now,” one senior administration official said.
With winter approaching at the penal colony where Griner was being held, Biden faced a singularly presidential decision.
Welcoming Griner home would fulfill a promise and end the nightmare endured by her and her family.
Griner’s wife, who arrived in Washington on Wednesday, was invited to an early morning meeting at the White House set for Thursday.
When Cherelle Griner arrived at the White House for the meeting with Sullivan, it had become apparent the critical question was no longer if her wife would be released, but when.
Cherelle Griner waited at the White House for a short period of time before it became clear the planned meeting with Sullivan had shifted.
Biden, who has been briefed on what may lie ahead, according to officials, made his own public plea as he announced Griner’s release.
The White House described her suffering “intolerable circumstances” during her detention.
At the White House, Biden met with Griner’s wife for the first time to show her the letter he was sending in response.
For Griner and Whelan, they were willing to exchange Viktor Bout, who was convicted in 2011 on charges including conspiring to kill American citizens.
“I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”Paul Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan spoke with Biden on Thursday afternoon, she told CNN.
The Biden administration conducted a security assessment in the lead-up to Biden giving the final green light to accept the deal to trade Griner for Bout.
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