Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is planning to travel to Russia for talks aimed at finding a deal to free detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, a source told ABC News on Saturday.
He is expected to go to Moscow in the next couple of weeks, the source said.
The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson has a long history of working to free Americans wrongfully detained overseas. He most recently played a role in a prisoner exchange that saw Russia release former U.S. 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 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 International Airport and accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Griner pleaded guilty to bringing hashish oil into Russia earlier this week, telling a judge that she had done so “inadvertently” while asking the court for mercy.
Sources told ESPN the guilty plea was a strategy to help facilitate a prisoner swap that could bring Griner home, and it also was recognition that there was no way she was going to be acquitted. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.
The State Department issued a statement Thursday saying it continues to work for Griner’s release. Asked to comment on Richardson’s potential visit, the White House National Security Council told ABC it was in contact with Richardson and valued his efforts, but declined to say more.
Richardson does not represent the White House. In Reed’s case, he approached Russia’s government and the Biden administration separately to try to feel out what both sides might accept as any possible deal. He then relayed what he had heard back to both sides.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said she had requested the Richardson team’s help and would support a trip if it took place.
“We asked the Richardson Center to help and I’m encouraged that he might be going,” Cherelle Griner said in a statement to ABC through Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas.
ABC News and ESPN’s T.J. Quinn contributed to this report.