Biden meets with Trevor Reed's parents after they protest outside White House

The ex-Marine has been detained in Russia since the summer of 2019.

March 30, 2022, 8:10 PM

The parents of Trevor Reed, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen and former Marine who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2019, met with President Joe Biden Wednesday after demonstrating outside the White House to urge Biden to do more to bring their son home amid Russia's violent invasion of Ukraine.

"During their meeting, the president reiterated his commitment to continue to work to secure the release of Trevor, Paul Whelan, and other Americans wrongfully held in Russia and elsewhere, and to provide all possible assistance until they and others are free and returned home to their families who are advocating so passionately for their release," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement; Whelan is another former Marine imprisoned in Russia.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for the family, tweeted that the president had been "incredibly gracious" during a Wednesday evening White House meeting with Joey and Paula Reed. Franks shared photos of the Reeds standing outside the White House.

Before the meeting, when asked by ABC News what they would say to Biden, Joey and Paula Reed said they wanted to remind him of their son's service to the county and to him personally, highlighting his experience as a presidential guard at Camp David.

"We want to tell him about our son -- a little bit that he hasn't gotten from a report from someone," Joey Reed said. "Remind him that our son added time to his Marine Corps service so he could be a presidential guard."

PHOTO: Joey Reed and Paula Reed, the parents of Trevor Reed, a Marine who is currently being detained in a Russian prison, demonstrate in Lafayette Park near the White House on March 30, 2022, in Washington.
Joey Reed and Paula Reed, the parents of Trevor Reed, a Marine who is currently being detained in a Russian prison, demonstrate in Lafayette Park near the White House on March 30, 2022, in Washington.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Psaki said Biden's national security team "will remain in regular contact with the Reeds, the Whelan family, and other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad."

"We are grateful for their partnership and feedback," she said. "We will continue to work to ensure we are communicating and sharing information in a way useful to these families."

The Reeds' pleas come as the State Department announced a new advisory Wednesday warning Americans not to travel to Russia or Ukraine and making it explicit that U.S. citizens in Russia could be singled out "including for detention."

Trevor Reed has been imprisoned for 956 days and is on the third day of his second hunger strike in the last six months in a prison in Mordovia, Russia, his parents say. Reed suspects he has tuberculosis and a broken rib but has not received "meaningful medical care," they said, so they staged a protest outside the White House to raise awareness about his case. They said he spends most of his days in solitary confinement, constantly getting punished for mundane things like not making his bed properly.

"During the day, because the room has no real heating and there's cracks in the windows, you see your breath all day long. He coils up on the floor next to a hot water pipe to stay warm and then he's given violations for laying on the floor during the daytime," his father told reporters.

PHOTO: A banner photo of Marine Corps veteran of Trevor Reed, who is a prisoner in Russia, stands in Lafayette Park near the White House, March 30, 2022, in Washington.
A banner photo of Marine Corps veteran of Trevor Reed, who is a prisoner in Russia, stands in Lafayette Park near the White House, March 30, 2022, in Washington. Reed's family is urging President Joe Biden to advocate for their son's release from his nine-year prison term on charges that he assaulted two police officers in Moscow.
Patrick Semansky/AP

The Reeds repeatedly told reporters that they wanted a prisoner swap in exchange for their son.

"Our son was willing to give his life for President Biden and his family. And so it's not just that he served his country, he served this president in particular. And not that all of the Americans that are held around the world shouldn't get everything that our government can give -- if that means prisoner trades then so be it, let's get our Americans home," he said.

Trevor Reed has been detained in Russia since the summer of 2019 and was sentenced in 2020 to nine years in a Russian prison colony, convicted on charges of violently assaulting two police officers in Moscow following a drunken party in Moscow where he was visiting his girlfriend. Reed's family and U.S. officials say those charges and ones brought for Whelan were fabricated in order to seize them as bargaining chips.

When Biden was in Reed's home state of Texas earlier this month, his motorcade drove past Reed's parents as they demonstrated a speech he was giving in Fort Worth about helping veterans. Biden called an hour later to apologize for not stopping and promised to meet them in person, according to the White House.

"After his event in Fort Worth, the President called Joey and Paula Reed to reiterate his commitment to doing everything he can to bring their son home, to staying in close touch with them through his national security team, and to finding a time to meet in person," a White House official said on March 8.

Before Wednesday, the Reed family said they had not received a follow-up from a White House official since the phone call.

The White House had not responded to repeated questions from ABC News about why it hadn't yet reached out to Reed's parents until it provided a statement about an hour before the Reeds planned to speak with reporters outside the White House.

PHOTO: Joey and Paula Reed, parents of Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed, stand in Lafayette Park near the White House, March 30, 2022, in Washington.
Joey and Paula Reed, parents of Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed, stand in Lafayette Park near the White House, March 30, 2022, in Washington.
Patrick Semansky/AP

"The president cannot imagine the pain the Reed family is going through every day," a senior Biden administration official said in the statement. "The president is committed to bringing Trevor and every American unjustly detained overseas home. It is the State Department's highest priority."

Asked after prepared COVID-related remarks on Wednesday afternoon whether he would see Reed's parents while they were in Washington, Biden said: "I'm gonna see if I can get to see them. They're good people."

Pressed on whether that meant he would see them that day, Biden said, "We're trying to work that out."

"Each day, we worry that our son will become the next Otto Warmbier," the Reed parents said in a statement, referring to an American student who died after detainment in North Korea. "We hope the President will be able to find the time to see us. We need his Administration to stop deliberating and start acting. We believe the President (whom we voted for) is the only person who can save our son's life."

The Reeds have also used the moment to raise awareness about other Americans detained in Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner and Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in what the U.S. ambassador to Russia called a "mockery of justice."

PHOTO: Joey and Paula Reed pose for a photo with a portrait of their son Marine veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed at their home in Fort Worth, Texas, Feb. 15, 2022.
Joey and Paula Reed pose for a photo with a portrait of their son Marine veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed at their home in Fort Worth, Texas, Feb. 15, 2022. Trevor Reed was sentenced to nine years in jail in Russia on charges he assaulted two police officers.
L.M. Otero/AP

"The time is now to bring home Trevor, Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. As we have said for more than a year, we continue to worry escalating tensions, or rhetoric, could lead to Russian authorities inventing additional false charges against Trevor," they said in the statement.

Trevor's parents' said they had asked their son, in one of the few times they've been able to speak since his imprisonment, what he would tell the president -- but said he had nothing to say.

"I think that he's forgotten about me," Reed allegedly said.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about status of the country's fight against COVID-19 in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, March 30, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks about status of the country's fight against COVID-19 in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, March 30, 2022.
Patrick Semansky/AP

ABC News asked Joey Reed if he thought Biden's comment that seemed to imply he wanted a regime change in Russia hurt their chances of getting their son home.

"You'd have to ask Putin," he said. "We believe that -- the comments about Putin -- we don't want to comment on them but obviously they're not helpful. But I guess they speak for themselves," he added.

They said they planned to stay in Washington through Friday.

ABC News' Patrick Reevell and Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.

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