“She’s on the ground,” President Joe Biden told Cherelle. The WNBA star’s wife said was in disbelief at first, before Biden confirmed, “Yep, she’s on the ground,” as the two hugged.
“It’s just such a great day,” Cherelle told Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other members of the administration inside the Oval Office on Thursday, as they went to call Brittney for the first time since her release.
Cherelle was unaware the swap was happening until that moment. She had been invited to an early morning meeting Thursday with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who had briefed her at other times in the negotiation process, but was then brought into the Oval Office where Biden was waiting to share the news.
Cherelle later went to San Antonio, where Brittney was flying to after a stop in the United Arab Emirates to officially complete the swap with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The couple finally had their reunion, nearly 10 months after Brittney’s arrest in Moscow, on Friday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed, according to ABC News
“She has been reunited with her wife, Cherelle. U.S officials who met her on the ground said she was in very good spirits, appears to be in good health,” said Jean-Pierre. “She was immediately taken to Brooke Army Medical Center [in San Antonio] where she is being offered a range of support options.”
Currently, there is no timetable for Brittney’s return to Arizona, where she and Cherelle live. Jean-Pierre explained that “every individual is different” in the way they choose to rehabilitate from a situation like Brittney’s.
“Those decisions are up to them and their families,” she said, adding that it’s “typical” for people to be “offered a wide range of additional support, including full medical” and “mental health” checkups.
The exchange agreement between Griner and Bout was recently negotiated with Moscow and was given final approval by Biden last Thursday.
Paul Whelan, another American who remains jailed in Russia, was not included in the swap after Russia refused to consider a deal that would bring him back to the U.S., the White House said.
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“So over the last nine months, you all have been so privy to one of the darkest moments of my life, and so today I am just standing here overwhelmed with emotions, but the most important emotion I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration,” she said.
“Today my family is whole.”