Brittney Griner's wife says she's lost 'trust' in the US government

The WNBA star has been detained in Russia for four months.

June 21, 2022, 3:46 PM

Cherelle and Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia, were expected to speak for the first time on Saturday to mark their fourth wedding anniversary.

But the U.S. Embassy line was not staffed because it was the weekend, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told ABC News, and the call never took place.

"I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up," Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press in an interview. "I'm pretty sure I texted [Brittney'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.'"

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News: "We deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error. We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. We remain in regular contact with the families of those held hostage or wrongfully detained; we are grateful for their partnership and feedback; and we continue to work to ensure we are communicating and sharing information in a way useful to our families."

PHOTO: Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky and Stefanie Dolson #31 of the Chicago Sky defend Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury in the first half at Footprint Center, Oct. 10, 2021, in Phoenix.
Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky and Stefanie Dolson #31 of the Chicago Sky defend Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury in the first half at Footprint Center, Oct. 10, 2021, in Phoenix.
Mike Mattina/Getty Images

Cherelle Griner said the call had been planned for two weeks.

"I find it unacceptable and I have zero trust in our government right now," she told the AP. "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? Because that's a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday that Brittney Griner’s inability to reach her wife was an “unfortunate mistake,” adding that another phone call has been scheduled.

“This was an unfortunate mistake, and the Department of State is working to rectify this as quickly as possible,” Jean-Pierre said, but did not indicate the date of the upcoming call.

Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since February and last week her pre-trial detention was extended at least through July 2, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.

The 31-year-old was taken into custody at Sheremetyevo International Airport on Feb. 17 after officials allegedly found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her bag. Hashish oil is illegal in Russia.

Cherelle Griner told "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts in an interview last month that her wife texted her when she was first taken into custody but Brittney's phone was taken shortly after.

PHOTO: Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner, who has been detained in a Russian prison for nearly 100 days, spoke for the first time in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts, May 24, 2022.
Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner, who has been detained in a Russian prison for nearly 100 days, spoke for the first time in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts, May 24, 2022.
Todd Wawrychuk/ABC

They had not spoken on the phone but communicated "sporadically" through letters, Cherelle Griner said.

"[Brittney] wrote me one letter and was like, 'Babe, I know you wanna go down right now but like, don't just yet,'" she said.

"I won't go down until she's back ... Every single day matters for me to be sound, for me to be alert, for me to be attentive, to make sure that she comes back," she added.

Brittney Griner's detention was extended for another 18 days at "the request of the investigation," according to a representative from the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region, TASS reported.

PHOTO: Brittney Griner of Ekaterinburg is challenged by Quanitra Hollingswort of Kursk during the Euro League Women final match between UMMC Ekaterinburg and Dynamo Kursk at Novomatic Arena, April 14, 2019, in Sopron, Hungary.
Brittney Griner of Ekaterinburg is challenged by Quanitra Hollingswort of Kursk during the Euro League Women final match between UMMC Ekaterinburg and Dynamo Kursk at Novomatic Arena, April 14, 2019, in Sopron, Hungary.
SEPA.Media/Getty Images

She was charged with "large-scale transportation of drugs" and could face up to 10 years in prison, according to The New York Times.

The U.S. government classified Brittney Griner's case on May 3 as "wrongfully detained" in Russia, which means that the U.S. would work to negotiate her release.

“Our position for some time on this has been very clear. Brittney Griner should not be detained. She should not be detained for a single day longer,” Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, said.

Price also said the State Department continues to work to gain regular access to U.S. detainees in Russia including Paul Whelan, who has been in a Russian prison since 2018.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine began one week after Griner was detained. Some officials are concerned that Americans jailed in Russia could be used as leverage in the ongoing conflict.

PHOTO: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Footprint Center, Oct. 6, 2021, in Phoenix.
Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Footprint Center, Oct. 6, 2021, in Phoenix.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Cherelle Griner told "GMA" she would like to speak with President Joe Biden.

"I just keep hearing that, you know, he has the power. She's a political pawn," she said. "So if they're holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it."

Asked about a potential meeting between Cherelle Griner and President Biden, Jean-Pierre said, "We don't have anything to share about a potential phone conversation or meeting."

ABC News' Mark Osborne, Ben Gittleson, Natalia Shumskaia and Tanya Stukalova contributed to this report.

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