8:38 a.m. Eastern Time
A few moments ago, with his wife, Cherelle, in the Oval Office, I spoke with Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.
After months of being wrongfully detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back.
in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all the time.
This is a day we have worked for a long time. We never stopped pressing for his release.
These were detailed and intense negotiations, and I want to thank all the public servants in my administration who worked tirelessly to secure his release.
I also want to thank the United Arab Emirates for helping us facilitate Brittney’s return, because that’s where she landed.
These past few months have been hell for Brittney and Charlee. [Cherelle]and all his family, and all his teammates back home.
People across the country heard about Brittney’s story, advocated for her release, and supported her through this ordeal. And I know that her support meant a lot to her family.
I’m glad to say that Brittney is in a good mood. She’s…relieved to finally be home. And the fact is that she lost months of her life, she experienced unnecessary trauma, and deserves space, privacy, and time with her loved ones to recover and heal from the time she was wrongfully detained.
Brittney is an athlete beyond compare, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Team USA. She endured mistreatment and a spectacle — at a show trial in Russia with trademark determination and incredible dignity. She represents the best of America, the best of America, across the board, everything about her.
She wrote to me in July. She didn’t ask for special treatment, even though we’ve been working on her release since day one. She requested a simple quote: “Please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do everything you can to get us home.”
We never forget Brittney. And we have not forgotten Paul Whelan, who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for years. This was not a choice of which American to take home. We brought Trevor Reed home when we had the chance earlier this year. Unfortunately, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we still haven’t managed to secure Paul’s release, we’re not giving up. We never give up.
We remain in close contact with Paul’s family, the Whelan family. And my thoughts and prayers are with them today. They have to have such mixed emotions today. And we will continue to negotiate in good faith for Paul’s release. I guarantee you. I tell that to the family: I guarantee it.
And I urge Russia to do the same to ensure Paul’s health and humane treatment are maintained until we can bring him home.
I don’t want any American unjustly detained for another day if we can bring that person home.
My administration has now brought home dozens of Americans who were wrongfully detained or taken hostage abroad, many of whom had been detained since before I took office.
And today we also remember the other Americans who are being held hostage and unjustly detained in Russia or anywhere else in the world.
Reuniting these Americans with their loved ones remains a priority, a priority for my administration and everyone in my administration involved in this.
And we will continue to work to bring home all Americans who continue to endure such injustice.
We also want to prevent more American families
to suffer this pain and separation. And I strongly, strongly urge all Americans to take precautions, including reviewing State Department travel advisories before traveling abroad, which now include warnings about the risk of being wrongfully detained by a foreign government.
Make no mistake about it: this job is not easy. Negotiations are always difficult. There are never guarantees.
But my job as President of the United States is to make the tough decisions and protect American citizens around the world. Anywhere in the world. And I am proud that, today, we have once again made a whole family.
Welcome home, Brittney.
And now I’d like to invite Cherelle to say a few words to all of you. Of course, she’s not excited about this at all. Cherelle, it’s all yours, girl. Congratulations again.
EM. GRINER: Thank you. Thanks.
So, for the past nine months, all of you have been privy to one of the darkest moments of my life. And so today, I am standing here overwhelmed with emotions. But the most important emotion I have right now is my sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration.
You just mentioned that this job is not easy, and it hasn’t been. There have been so many hands involved, so I’d like to take a moment to specifically mention a few: Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken, Jake Sullivan, Josh Geltzer of the National Security Council. Roger Carstens and Fletcher Schoen of the Hostage Envoy’s Office. A special thanks to Governor Richardson and Mickey. Mercury players, the WNBPA for their defense. And also, you may not know this, but my family has been tremendously supported by the Wasserman agency. BG Agent Lindsay Colas has been amazing to me and my family through this process.
So today my family is complete. But as you all know, there are so many other families that are not complete, and BG is not here to say this, but I will be happy to speak on his behalf and say that BG and I will remain committed to the work of getting every American home, including Paul , whose family is in our hearts today as we celebrate BG being home. We understand that there are still people here who are enduring what I have endured for the last nine months of missing their loved ones tremendously.
So thank you all for your support. And today is just a happy day for me and my family. So, I’m going to smile right now. Thanks.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much to all.
Q Mr. President, when will Brittney return to the United States? When will she land?
THE PRESIDENT: In the next twenty-four hours.
Q What do you say to the Whelan family, who say this is a catastrophe for Paul, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re talking to them.
8:45 a.m. Eastern Time