(WXYZ) — The White House confirmed Friday President Joe Biden met with Elizabeth Whelan and the family of WNBA star Brittney Griner to discuss the ongoing efforts toward the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
The White House issued the following statement by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre::
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.
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. 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.
Elizabeth Whelan is the sister of the Novi native who remains jailed in Russia.
Back in July, the Biden administration made a substantial proposal to secure both Americans but so far, that effort has been unsuccessful.
Friday's separate meetings are to ensure both families that efforts are ongoing.
The White House has distanced itself from the former U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson who played a significant role in not only Trevor Reed’s release, but also Danny Fenster's release from a Myanmar prison.
Richardson recently traveled to Russia and met with its leadership. The Biden administration has maintained that Americans should not be traveling to Moscow.
Whelan’s brother David was cautiously optimistic when he spoke with 7 Action News last month. Shortly after, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made public that an offer to Russia was on the table.
"It's hard for me to believe that the Russian government wouldn't go for some sort of deal at this point," Paul's brother David Whelan said.
At that time, David was also worried for his brother’s health. Paul has lost weight and has less access to food due to cuts in the prison.