Former Gov. Bill Richardson to travel to Russia for talks aimed at freeing Brittney Griner

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson plans to travel to Russia for talks to find a deal to free imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner, a source told ABC News.

He is expected to go to Moscow in the next few weeks, the source said.

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Richardson has a long history of campaigning for the release of Americans wrongfully imprisoned abroad. Most recently, he played a role in a prisoner swap in which Russia released former US Marine Trevor Reed after nearly two and a half years in captivity.

Richardson is currently representing the Griner family as well as the family of Paul Whelan, another former Marine who has been held by Russia for three and a half years.

Griner has been in detention in Russia since mid-February, when she was stopped at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and accused of having e-cigarette cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. Griner pleaded guilty to bringing hash oil into Russia earlier this week, telling a judge she did so “accidentally” while asking the court for clemency.

Sources told ESPN the guilty plea was a strategy to facilitate a prisoner swap that could bring Griner home, and it was also a realization that there was no way she would be acquitted. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale drug transport.

The State Department issued a statement Thursday saying it was continuing to work toward Griner’s release. When asked to comment on Richardson’s potential visit, the White House National Security Council told ABC it was in contact with Richardson and appreciated his efforts, but declined to say more.

Richardson does not represent the White House. In Reed’s case, he approached the Russian government and the Biden administration separately to explore what both sides might accept as a possible deal. Then he relayed what he had heard to both sides.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said she has reached out to Richardson’s team for help and would support a trip if it goes ahead.

“We have reached out to the Richardson Center for help and I am encouraged that he may be able to leave,” Cherelle Griner said in a statement to ABC through Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas.

ABC News and ESPN’s TJ Quinn contributed to this report. Former Gov. Bill Richardson to travel to Russia for talks aimed at freeing Brittney Griner

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