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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke Wednesday with Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, who remains behind bars in Russia, the White House said.
Griner has been imprisoned in Russia since February, and her trial began last week. The Biden administration has been under increasing pressure to do more to secure her release.
The call comes two days after a handwritten letter by the 31-year-old Griner to Biden was delivered to the White House, according to her family, in which she implored the president to bring her home. "I'm terrified I might be here forever," the Phoenix Mercury player wrote.
The White House said Wednesday that the president and vice president "spoke today with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner who is wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances."
Biden sought "to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world," the White House said. "He also read her a draft of the letter the president is sending to Brittney Griner today."
The White House did not share specifics from the president's letter to Griner, but said the president on Wednesday offered his support to the Griner family and offered his commitment to making sure they receive all possible help from the administration. National security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have previously spoken with Cherelle Griner.
Cherelle Griner told CBS Mornings on Tuesday that her wife decided to write to Biden directly because the family had not been in touch with him.
"It kills me every time that, you know, when I have to write her and she's asking, 'Have you met with them yet?' And I have to say no ...I'm sure she is like, 'I'm going to write him and ask now because my family has tried to no avail, so I'm going to do it myself,'" Cherelle said.
Griner was arrested at an airport near Moscow in February, with officials claiming she had vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Vanessa Nygaard, the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, implied this week that Griner's case would be making more progress if she were a male basketball star in the NBA.
"If it was LeBron, he'd be home, right?" Nygaard said, referring to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. "It's a statement about the value of women. It's a statement about the value of a Black person. It's a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know, and so that's what hurts a little more."
This story was originally published by CBS News on July 6, 2022 at 2:22 p.m. ET.