Posted by on June 21, 2022 4:35 pm
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White House: ‘Unfortunate mistake’ kept Brittney Griner from connecting with wife

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney leaves a courtroom in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 13, 2022. Griner was detained Feb. 17 and a hearing in a Russian court could come as early as Friday, or anytime before May 19 when her detention period is scheduled to end. The court will likely extend her pre-trial detention. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

White House: ‘Unfortunate mistake’ kept Brittney Griner from connecting with wife

Mike Brest June 21, 03:56 PMJune 21, 03:56 PM Video Embed

The White House called the mistake that prevented WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is being wrongfully detained in Russia, from contacting her wife for the first time since her arrest “unfortunate,” and the administration has rescheduled it.

Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, were supposed to speak this past weekend for the first time since her Feb. 17 arrest on drug charges, which coincided with the couple’s fourth wedding anniversary, but they were unable to connect because no one was there to answer the phone.

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“So this was an unfortunate mistake. And the Department of State is working to rectify this as quickly as possible. From what I understand, there is a phone interview that has been scheduled,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Tuesday’s briefing.

The detained Griner attempted to call the number that she was told would patch her through to her wife 11 times over a period of several hours, though no one answered the calls because the desk they were coming in on was unstaffed on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle Griner told the outlet in an interview. “I’m pretty sure I texted BG’s agent and was like: ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody. It’s going to take me a minute to get my emotions together, and just tell everybody I’m unavailable right now.’ Because it just knocked me out. I wasn’t well. I’m still not well.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday that department officials “deeply regret” the “logistical error” that prevented the two from talking.

“It was a logistical issue that was compounded in part by the fact that our embassy in Moscow is under significant restrictions in terms of its staffing, and so when we have issues with the telephone system there, for example, the technicians are not located on-site. In fact, they’re not even located in Russia, he explained. “They have to be located in a third country because of the onerous restrictions that the Russian Federation has placed on our embassy and its operation.”

Cherelle Griner added that she has “zero trust” in the government.

“I find it unacceptable, and I have zero trust in our government right now. If I can’t trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife’s behalf to come home?” she asked. “Because that’s a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.”

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In May, the department designated Griner as “wrongfully detained” in Russia, moving her case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, effectively the government’s lead hostage negotiation office. Russian media outlets recently reported that Griner’s detention was extended until early July.

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