AUSTIN (KXAN) — State leaders are sharing their reactions to the news Wednesday that Russia is releasing Texas Marine veteran Trevor Reed in a prisoner exchange with the United States.
President Joe Biden released a statement announcing that Reed is coming home after his detainment in 2019 for allegedly attacking a Moscow police officer. Biden credited negotiations that “required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.” He also mentioned Reed’s parents, whom he met with last month during a private meeting at the White House.
“His safe return is a testament to the priority my Administration places on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad,” Biden said in his statement. “We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends.”
Reed’s family released a statement on Twitter saying their prayers are answered that they will soon reunite with him at home in Texas.
“First and foremost, we’d like to thank President Biden for his kindness, his consideration, and for making the decision to bring Trevor home,” Reed’s family said. “The President’s actions may have saved Trevor’s life.”
They also thanked a number of Texas legislators for working together on both sides of the aisle to secure his release, including Rep. August Pfluger who represents their district. Pfluger sent out a statement of his own Wednesday along with sharing a photo of the former Marine with the words “Trevor Reed is free” written in red, white and blue on it.
“The Reeds have been living a two-and-a-half-year nightmare fighting for their son’s release,” Pfluger’s statement read. “Today, our prayers have been answered. I look forward to welcoming Trevor safely home.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee, sent out a statement stating how “overjoyed and relieved” this news made him.
“I had the opportunity to meet his family as they worked tirelessly to have him released,” McCaul said. “Joey and Paula never gave up hope their son would be freed from his unjust imprisonment. Today is that day.”
Sen. John Cornyn said Reed survived a “real-life nightmare” after spending almost 1,000 days in Russian detention, which his family said raised major concerns about his health and wellbeing.
“I’m beyond relieved Trevor will return home to his family in Texas, who were relentless in the fight to secure his release and never gave up hope,” Cornyn said. “I applaud the President and the State Department officials who worked behind the scenes to secure Trevor’s release, as well as Congressmen Pfluger and McCaul for their efforts to keep pressure on the Administration.”
Sen. Ted Cruz also posted on Twitter that Russia should release other Americans “who they continue to wrongfully detain.”
“I’m relieved that Trevor Reed has been freed from his wrongful detention by Russia,” Cruz wrote Wednesday. “This Marine will now be reunited with his family and get the medical treatment that he needs. Ambassador John Sullivan should be commended for the invaluable work he did in freeing Trevor.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, wrote on Twitter, “Welcoming home Texan Trevor Reed—freed after years of imprisonment in Russia and after tireless work of our advocates for our citizens wrongfully held abroad. Let’s celebrate his wonderful homecoming and keep up the efforts to bring Brittney Griner and others home too.”
Greg Casar, the Democratic Congressional candidate for Texas District 35, said in an interview with KXAN Wednesday morning that, if elected, he would work with the Texas delegation to push for the release of other Americans in Russia.
“I think that this is a bipartisan issue where we can all come together and put in the effort to bring home these two Americans that are in danger and needlessly incarcerated in Russia, especially coming from Texas just like Miss Griner,” Casar said. “I think it’s really important for us to bring together the Texas members of Congress to advocate for all Americans over there and especially to bring home Texans, like Mr. Reed and Miss Griner, and so that’s my commitment.”
Reed’s family said in their statement that he’ll eventually be able to share his story about what happened, but the most immediate concern for them will focus on what condition he’s in now. They said they’re asking for privacy while they “address the myriad of health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag.”
Brittney Griner & Paul Whelan
The announcement about Reed’s release called attention to the cases of two other notable Americans still being held in Russia.
Paul Whelan, a Michigan security executive, has been detained on espionage charges since the end of 2018. A Russian court has repeatedly extended his detention in a cramped Moscow prison while he awaits trial on charges that carry a sentence of up to 20 years.
Reed’s family mentioned Whelan’s loved ones in their statement released Wednesday, saying they still “stand proudly” with them.
“We will continue to advocate for the rapid release of hostages and detainees using all tools available to the United States government,” their statement read.
Meanwhile, the name Brittney Griner trended on social media Wednesday. The WNBA star player and two-time Olympic gold medalist has been held in Russia for two months now after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A few of her teammates began to speak publicly about their concerns for her safety after they initially remained relatively quiet in hopes of avoiding potentially hurting her case.
Twitter users questioned why President Biden’s statement Wednesday made no mention of her or her case in his statement announcing the prisoner exchange for Reed’s release.
Rep. McCaul mentioned both Griner and Whelan in his statement, saying the Russian government “continues to unjustly imprison American citizens.”
“It is time for Putin to stop using Americans as political pawns and release both Whelan and Griner back to their families as well,” he said.