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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden “keeps his promises” when it comes to bringing WNBA star Brittney Griner home.
Watch the briefing in the player above.
“Today he fulfilled a deeply important promise to bring Brittney Griner home to a family that loves her, a team that misses her, and a country that has marveled at her strength and courage,” Jean-Pierre said.
She went on to say Brittney’s safe return home “is the product of months and months of painstaking negotiations that were the culmination of extraordinary efforts across the U.S. government.”
Russia freed Griner on Thursday in a high-profile prisoner exchange, as the U.S. released notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout but failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for nearly four years.
Biden’s authorization to release Bout, the Russian felon once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” underscored the heightened urgency that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case on drug charges and subsequent transfer to a penal colony.
WATCH: Former Olympic basketball coach Dawn Staley on Brittney Griner’s release
Griner, who also played pro basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there last February for bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil in vape cartridges into the country.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the swap, saying in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the exchange took place in Abu-Dhabi and that Bout had been flown home.
Biden spoke with Griner who was at an airport in Abu-Dhabi after she was greeted by U.S. officials. She was expected to be back in the U.S. within 24 hours, Biden said. U.S. officials said she would be offered specialized medical services and counseling, but declined to go into specifics citing privacy concerns.
Both Russian and U.S. officials had conveyed cautious optimism in recent weeks after months of strained negotiations, with Biden saying in November that he was hopeful that Russia would engage in a deal now that the midterm elections were completed. A top Russian official said last week that a deal was possible before year’s end.
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