Trevor Reed: U.S. Should Do ‘Absolutely Everything’ To Release Americans Held Illegally

Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine released from Russia in a prisoner exchange last month after spending 985 days in prison, said U.S. authorities need to do “absolutely everything” in their power to free Americans held illegally abroad.

“We need to do absolutely everything we can as Americans to advocate for those Americans who are being held illegally overseas, and do every single thing we can possible to get them out. We have to do that,” Reed said in an interview that aired Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

While Reed was able to return home to Texas, American business executive and Marine veteran Paul Whelan has been held in Russia since 2018 and has been sentenced to 16 years on spying charges. WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February after being accused of smuggling drugs into the country, is locked in pretrial detention until at least June.

Reed said he initially thought Whelan was also coming back to the U.S. with him, and it was “tough” when he realized that was not the case.

“The fact is that the United States should have got him out, and we have to get him out at ― at any cost,” Reed said.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused of espionage in Russia, holds a message as he stands inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing to decide to extend his detention at the Lefortovo Court in Moscow, on Oct. 24, 2019.

Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

Reed also hailed President Joe Biden’s role in getting his freedom back.

“I mean, he’s the person who held the ― the single most important role in that decision that’s made by the president of the United States, and I think that President Biden made the right one.”

Reed spoke at length about how he ended up in custody, saying the detention of Whelan, a fellow Marine almost stopped him from traveling to the country. In the end, he decided to spend the summer with his Russian girlfriend Lina, who worked as a lawyer.

After a night out in August 2019, Reed felt sick on the side of the road, where police picked him up and took him to the police station to sober up. While he was originally told he would be free to go, a shift change at the police station changed Reed’s life.

“I waited about 10 minutes for ― for Lina to get there, and in that 10 minutes, the shift changed at the police station, and the new officers came in with a new police chief,” Reed said. “He saw that I was speaking English with the duty there, and he asked like why is this American here, and after about three minutes they came back and told me that I could not leave.”

He was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison. Reed detailed the horrible conditions he experienced inside his cell.

“There’s blood all over the walls there where prisoners had killed themselves or killed other prisoners or attempted to do that,” Reed said. “The toilets are just a hole in the floor and there’s, you know, crap everywhere, all over the floor, on the walls. There’s people in there also that walk around that look like zombies.”

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke with Griner’s wife to assure her the State Department is working tirelessly to get Griner back home.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed Friday that a consular was able to visit the WNBA player in prison for the second time in a week, according to ESPN.

Meanwhile, the NBA and WNBA are contributing to the efforts for Griner’s release. If convicted, Griner would face up to 10 years in prison, according to The Associated Press.

United States's Brittney Griner walks up court during women's basketball gold medal game against Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics, on Aug. 8, 2021, in Saitama, Japan.
United States’s Brittney Griner walks up court during women’s basketball gold medal game against Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics, on Aug. 8, 2021, in Saitama, Japan.

Luca Bruno via Associated Press

Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister, told CNN she would like to see the president “finish the job” and secure the release of everyone wrongfully detained.

“What we go through is ― is extraordinary. And so I would say to the president, please, bring my brother home and bring them all home,” Whelan said.

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