President Biden declared 'a national emergency' to help free wrongful detainees. A legal analyst says the move 'won't help' Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner.
Brittney Griner competes for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.Charlie Neibergall/AP
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  • President Biden issued an executive order to help free American hostages and wrongful detainees.

  • The move "won't help" WNBA star Brittney Griner, legal analysts and hostage negotiators say.

  • "As far as Brittney Griner goes, it doesn't affect her at all," one analyst told Insider.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday "to bolster efforts to bring home American hostages and wrongful detainees," even declaring a "national emergency" to address the growing threat.

But when it comes to the most famous American currently held captive overseas, sources tell Insider the Biden administration's move is unlikely to have a significant impact.

"As far as Brittney Griner goes, it doesn't affect her at all," Aron Solomon, chief legal analyst for Esquire Digital, told Insider.

Brittney Griner.
Griner with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Griner, a WNBA superstar and two-time Olympic gold medalist, has been detained in Russia for more than five months. She was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17, when officials alleged to have found hashish oil and vape cartridges in her luggage.

The 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury center has been held in Russian jail, where she has limited communication with friends and loved ones, ever since.

Solomon explained that while the Biden administration's announcement this week may have indirectly come from public pressure surrounding Griner's case, the executive order is predominantly focused on preventative measures to reduce the number of US nationals wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad.

Brittney Griner in Russia
Griner is led to a hearing in a court outside Moscow.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

A White House fact sheet outlines such initiatives, like the introduction of new risk indicators for Americans traveling overseas and enforcement of "costs and consequences" to disincentivize foreign adversaries from targeting Americans.

While there are other proposals included in the executive order — including efforts to increase communication with and disclosure of information to the families of hostages and wrongful detainees — the new order seemingly prioritizes "strategies to deter future hostage-taking and wrongful detentions" over policies to bring current captives home.

"Essentially, [Griner's] detention may help others in the future," Solomon said. "But Biden's proclamation won't help her."

Brittney Griner high fives her Phoenix Mercury teammates.
Griner high fives her Phoenix Mercury teammates.AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Jonathan Franks, a consultant who has navigated several hostage situations in the past, agreed that Biden's executive order does little to address the status of current hostages and wrongful detainees. In a statement provided to Insider, Franks suggested that the White House is merely "taking executive action to direct itself to follow existing law."

As spokesman for the Bring Our Families Home Campaign — a coalition of families, including Griner's, advocating on behalf of Americans held abroad — Franks was in Washington, DC, this week to unveil a mural featuring the WNBA star and 17 additional hostages and wrongfully detained Americans. With the families of those held abroad also in attendance, Franks suggested that the Biden administration's executive order was "an effort to pre-manage the press attention from many hostage families being in DC this week."

The Biden administration confirmed Tuesday that the order was "informed by our regular communications with the families and other stakeholders who have undertaken incredible advocacy efforts on behalf of their loved ones."

The Washington, DC, mural of Griner and other American hostages around the world created by the Bring Our Families Home Campaign.
The Washington, DC, mural of Griner and other American hostages around the world created by the Bring Our Families Home Campaign.REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

Still, Franks says those families who traveled to DC "continue to await a reply to their requests for meetings with President Biden."

The US government classified Griner as "wrongfully detained" in May — a move that sent a "strong signal that the US government does not believe that there is a legitimate case against her," Franks previously told Insider. But Moscow has expressed anger over Griner's designation, and it could be an impediment to the Biden administration's efforts to bring the eight-time WNBA All-Star home.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova argued that the "wrongful detention" classification undermines the legitimacy of her country's legal system. She added that America's liberal laws regarding possession and use of marijuana have no bearing on the drug's standing in Russian law, according to the Associated Press.

Sue Bird (right) stands alongside Cherelle Griner during a press conference.
WNBA star Sue Bird (right) stands alongside Griner's wife, Cherelle, during a press conference.David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

"If a US citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian, local laws, and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington," Zakharova said. "You understand, if drugs are legalized in the United States... and now the whole country will become drug-addicted, this does not mean that all other countries are following the same path."

Griner pleaded guilty to the charges against her on July 7. But both Solomon and Franks have previously warned against trusting in the Russian legal system to pursue justice, providing precisely the type of analysis Zakharova and her fellow Russian officials have protested.

Franks told Insider that Russia does not have rule of law and thus will almost certainly conduct a "show trial" in Griner's case. Given that courts in that country have a conviction rate that surpasses 99% and offer little chance for an appeal, Franks says he is confident that "the outcome is predetermined" for Griner, regardless of what her lawyers present in court.

Brittney Griner in Russian court.
Griner stands in a cage at a court room prior to a July 15 hearing outside Moscow.Dmitry Serebryakov/Associated Press

Solomon indicated that Griner and her attorneys will be facing a kangaroo court.

"This isn't rule of law," Solomon told Insider. "It's antithetical to the legal system and justice."

Solomon, Franks, and other sources have repeatedly told Insider that Griner's best chance of returning stateside any time soon involves a prisoner exchange with Russia. Several experts explained that an unorthodox two-for-one swap involving American detainee Paul Whelan for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout could be the key to Griner's freedom.

Viktor Bout.

Even Bout's sentencing judge — the Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin, who was a federal judge at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York when she gave Bout a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison — told Insider that "I don't think it would be wrong to trade him" in exchange for Griner and Whelan.

"I'm not saying he's an innocent guy, don't get me wrong, but I do think having served 11 years or so ... that's a pretty hefty amount of time in a person's life," Scheindlin added. "... The US interest in punishing him has been satisfied, in my opinion."

Solomon suggested that now, having secured a guilty plea from Griner, "Russia is on the offensive diplomatically." His theory explains Zakharova's snide comment that the US is on a path to "become drug-addicted."

"Having extracted a pragmatic guilty plea from Griner, now [Russia] will hold her and her lifestyle out as being among the themes that are wrong with the United States," Solomon said, referring not only to her marijuana use but also to her sexual orientation and race.

Brittney Griner appears in handcuffs during a May 13 hearing outside of Moscow.
Griner appears in handcuffs during a May 13 hearing outside of Moscow.AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Franks has offered similar analysis when it comes to Russia's dealings with Griner. He previously noted that a 6-foot-9 Black woman is "kind of rare in Russia." And given the state's hostile stance toward LGBTQ people and their lack of legal protections, Griner's status as an out lesbian makes her a target for ridicule.

"It's almost like they're putting her out there to be guffawed at," Franks said. "I think that's shameful and says it all about this regime and their system."

"I don't trust that regime with LGBT people," he added.

Griner's trial is expected to resume Tuesday. The 31-year-old's legal representation estimated that she'll be sentenced sometime in August. She faces up to 10 years in Russian prison.

Read the original article on Insider