Trevor Reed, Paul Whelan, President Trump discussed on Today, Explained

Today, Explained
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Hey folks, it's preet bharara. The former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. I led that office for over 7 years until I was fired by former president Trump, 5 years ago. Now I host a podcast called stay tuned with preet from cafe and the vox media podcast network. Every Thursday I have long form conversations with the newsmakers, shaping our current moment. And the thinkers who help make sense of it. Politicians, journalists, academics, and activists. People like Adam Schiff, Anita hill, masha gessen, and Daniel kahneman. As a former prosecutor, I focus on questions of justice. That means I dive deep into the war in Ukraine, the threat of climate change, the future of technology. And of course, the legal and political battles that are defining our time, like the investigations into former president Trump, and the fights were voting and reproductive rights. I hope you'll consider listening and subscribing. Just search, stay tuned with pre wherever you get your podcasts. Find slimer for the dark and that's what the sellout crowd is waiting for. They explained we're back with ESPN investigative journalist TJ Quinn and TJ, you've spent the past two months following this Britney grinder's story, but you just mentioned the Trevor Reed story, former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is back in Texas tonight after his surprise release from a Russian prison camp, part of a secretive high level prisoner swap. Tell us why that story is so important to Britney story. Trevor Reed is crucial to her story. He was former U.S. Marine who had actually worked in president Obama's detail in The White House, his family said that he was over there learning Russian and visiting his girlfriend. And Reed was arrested after a drunken night when officials say that he hit a cop. And Paul Whelan was accused of espionage. Whelan now asking his brother, why was I left behind? Why hasn't more been done to secure my release? Whelan is a corporate security director for a company out of Michigan that does business in Russia. And the U.S. government followed pretty much a similar path of just watching what happened with their cases, not really reacting. They got through their trial, independent observers watched this and determined this is ludicrous. These charges are ridiculous. And so at that point, once they were convicted, the U.S. government started saying they're both wrongfully detained. Trevor Reed started to get sick. He his parents believe that he contracted tuberculosis over there and it was untreated. He looked horrible. He looked like he could hardly walk. He looked like he'd been walking shackled. In fact, when we both saw that video this morning first time we started crying. And you saw a real split in strategy. Paul Whelan's family has been fairly low key about it, but Trevor Reid's parents, both of their own volition and through advice they got were really pushing hard saying we need attention on him, our son is over there may be dying in a Russian prison with his terrible care, finally just last week, a deal was cut where he was sent home in exchange for a Russian pilot who had been convicted in this country of trafficking, pretty much a straight trade. And there was immediate reaction of why can't you get all of them out? What about Paul Whelan? His family was very upset. And the number of people I've spoken to at the State Department said, look, here's what's different about Trevor Reid's case. One, his health. There was an emergency. They had to get him out. But they also really kind of flinched at the idea that it was the public campaign of the reeds that got him out. The people you talk to in states say, hey, look, we've got as much motivation as anybody. Maybe not their families, but we have all the motivation we need to get them out of there. Just personally, politically, ethically. The president is focused on that. And we would say to him, we are going to continue to do everything possible to bring you home. And there's frustration from them that there's not more public trust in what they do. And that is the real conundrum for a lot of these families and for the State Department and I've talked to people around Brittany griner about this. Essentially what they're doing is asking an unbelievably skeptical public to accept that institutions are operating the way they should and the people who run them are acting competently and in good faith. We are just not built to think that anymore, not in this culture in society. So, you know, the people around Brittany that I talked to kept saying, look, no, we have faith in the people who are doing this. We think that they're really doing their best. But they also started to get impatient. And once Trevor Reid came home, that was a big deal to people around Brittany griner because they recognized okay, maybe Britney's case is different, but it means that there is an open channel. You've got two hostile governments that aren't quite at war with each other, but the U.S. is certainly supporting Ukraine. And just the fact that they were able to strike a deal for him gave them a bit of optimism. They didn't have before. You know, hearing Trevor Reid's story and hearing that Russia got something out of detaining him. They got a trade with the United States, a one for one trade. It does sort of make me think again that Brittany griner could be detained, not just because she had some hash oil on her. If she did, but because she is great leverage for Russia against the United States, if they want to trade her for another detained Russian, the reality is it doesn't matter if she did it or not, frankly. You know, if she did, fine, you know, they can still trade for. If she didn't, well, it doesn't matter in the Russian judicial system because if they say she did, she did. The U.S. government says there's absolutely no proof that Paul Whelan committed espionage over there, but the Russians said he did and they convicted him and they've got him in jail. So what's the difference with Brittany griner, what changed at this point was there was some indication that the U.S. government got that there is a deal to be made. And once that happens, it really doesn't matter whether she actually did what they accused her of. And even if she did go over there with vape cartridges and violate Russian law, they still want to try to get her out. So it becomes all about a negotiation. And the sign that was really promising to Brittany griner supporters was it wasn't just that the U.S. government reclassified her as being wrongfully detained. It's that former U.S. ambassador Bill Richardson, who is worked for years with his organization privately to negotiate for hostages around the world. They got involved. I think this is a good sign. The Russians actually made this deal right now. Maybe they're sending a signal. Maybe they're ready to talk. I'm not sure. I don't think so. But I think it's good news for Britney and for Paul Whelan. And I'm going to do everything I can to get them out. They were deeply involved in Trevor Reed's case. They're allowed to do things that the U.S. government is not. The government is restrained by U.S. law about what kind of negotiations they can have, who they can talk to, involving third parties and some sort of trade. Bill Richardson is a private citizen.

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