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Biden to meet with family of Brittney Griner

Reports indicate meeting to take place Friday

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(Photo by S Bukley via Bigstock)

President Joe Biden on Friday will meet with the family of WNBA star Brittney Griner.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday during her daily briefing said Biden will meet with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner. Jean-Pierre said Biden will also sit down with Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, another American citizen who is serving a 16-year prison sentence after his conviction for spying.

A Russian court last month convicted Brittney Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist — of smuggling drugs into the country and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony. 

Brittney Griner’s lawyers have appealed her sentence.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly acknowledged the U.S. has offered Russia a deal to secure the release of Griner and Whelan. 

American officials have reportedly expressed a willingness to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., as part of a prisoner swap. A spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed negotiations between the two countries over a potential prisoner swap have begun.

“As we have said before, we believe that Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney and Paul under intolerable circumstances,” said Jean-Pierre. “And as you know, we have been directly engaged with the Russian government through appropriate channels. We made a significant offer a couple of months ago through the same channels we used for Trevor Reed (a former U.S. Marine who had been in a Russian custody since 2019 before his release in April in exchange for in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian citizen who had been in an American prison on drug trafficking charges.) We have followed up on that offer repeatedly, and we’ll continue to pursue every avenue to bring them home safely.”

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The White House

White House officials to meet with bisexual activists

Meeting to take place at HHS on Tuesday

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(Photo courtesy of Adam Schultz/White House)

The Biden administration on Tuesday will hold a meeting with a group of more than a dozen bisexual activists.

The meeting, which coincides with Bisexual Awareness Week, will take place at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in D.C.

The Washington Blade has learned National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson, Robyn Ochs, Fiona Dawson, Heron Greenesmith, Drs. Mimi Hoang and Lauren Beach, Khafre Kujichagulia Abif, Diana Adams, Nicole Holmes, Blair Imani, Tania Israel, Ellyn Ruthstrom, Belle Haggett Silverman and Ezra Young will attend the meeting that BiPlus Organizing US has coordinated.

Meeting participants will highlight three specific points

            • Funding priorities for bisexual health

            • Public health messaging and communications

            • Intimate partner violence within bisexual communities

BiPlus Organizing US will ask the Biden administration to illuminate the White House in the bisexual Pride colors and to issue a proclamation that acknowledges Celebrate Bisexual Day, which is on Friday. The group will also seek a White House-sponsored bisexual event in D.C. and a virtual post-meeting brief.

“The Sept. 20, 2022, policy brief meeting is a small step forward since the previous administration,” said BiPlus Organizing US. “However, we wish to work with government on addressing our issues to ensure that Bisexual Awareness Week and Celebrate Bisexuality Day 2023 are given equal recognition to that of June’s annual White House Pride events, and policy, funding, communications, messaging, data collection and more are distinctly considered for the bi+ community.”

Meeting participants on Monday will attend a BiPlus Organizing US reception in D.C. Information about the meeting can be found here.

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The White House

Biden meets with Brittney Griner’s wife

WNBA star last month sentenced to nine years in Russian penal colony

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A participant in this year's Capital Pride parade calls for Brittney Griner's release. President Joe Biden on Sept. 16, 2022, met with Griner's wife at the White House. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Joe Biden on Friday met with Brittney Griner’s wife.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement said the meeting took place at the White House. A pool report noted Biden met with Cherelle Griner and Brittney Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas.

White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan also participated in the meeting.

Biden also sat down with Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, another American citizen who is serving a 16-year prison sentence after his conviction for spying.

A Russian court last month convicted Brittney Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist — of smuggling drugs into the country and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony. 

Brittney Griner’s lawyers have appealed her sentence.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly acknowledged the U.S. has offered Russia a deal to secure the release of Griner and Whelan. 

American officials have reportedly expressed a willingness to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., as part of a prisoner swap. A spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed negotiations between the two countries over a potential prisoner swap have begun.

“President Biden met today with Elizabeth Whelan and Cherelle Griner, the loved ones of two American citizens who are wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances. Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, and Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, met separately with the president in the Oval Office,” said Jean-Pierre in her statement. “The president held the meetings to reiterate his continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely. He asked after the wellbeing of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time. The president appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long,” 
 
“Today’s meetings come after earlier meetings and conversations that the president, his national security team, and the State Department have held with the Whelan and Griner families to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as quickly as possible,” added Jean-Pierre. “We all admire the courage of the Whelan and Griner families in the face of these unimaginable circumstances, and we remain committed to reuniting them with their loved ones.”

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Politics

Karine Jean-Pierre improvises during briefing upon Queen Elizabeth’s death

‘Our hearts and our thoughts to the family members of the Queen’

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was forced to improvise upon learning of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. (Screen capture via YouTube)

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was forced on Thursday to improvise during the daily briefing upon being informed about the ground-shaking news on the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Initially refusing to answer hypothetical questions about the monarch’s death following reporters she was seriously ill, Jean-Pierre replied “OK, all right” when reporters informed her about the news while she answering a question on the Inflation Reduction Act.

“That’s been confirmed?” Jean-Pierre asked reporters, who responded in the affirmative before Jean-Pierre referenced the royal family as their source.

Taking a moment to collect herself, Jean-Pierre went into comments and condolences she made earlier in the briefing about then-hypothetical questions.

“Our hearts and our thoughts to the family members of the Queen, goes to the people of the United Kingdom,” Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre, who’s first Black woman and first openly gay person to serve in the role of the White House press secretary, said she didn’t want to get ahead of President Biden’s public comments, indicating they would be forthcoming.

“I want to you all to hear from him first, and so, I don’t want to get ahead of that” Jean-Pierre added.

Jean-Pierre added: “And I said this earlier, our relationship with the people of the United Kingdom, and this is something that the president has said himself, has grown stronger and stronger, and the United Kingdom is one of our closest allies.”

Bringing to the news briefing to an end, Jean-Pierre reiterated wouldn’t get ahead Biden on his comments and emphasized the strong ties between the United States and the United Kingdom.

“Again, our hearts go to the people of the United Kingdom, to the Queen and to her family,” Jean-Pierre concluded.

Biden issued a statement on the passing of Queen Elizabeth shortly after the briefing concluded: “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era.”

“In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her,” Biden added. “An enduring admiration for Queen Elizabeth II united people across the Commonwealth. The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity.”

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