President Biden talked Tuesday with the family of former US Marine Trevor Reed, who has been detained in Russia since 2019, after receiving criticism for not making time for a face-to-face meeting with Reed’s parents during his trip to Texas.
Biden spoke with Paula and Joey Reed over the phone to “reiterate his commitment to doing everything he can to bring their son home,” a White House official told The Hill, adding that the president said he would be “staying in close touch with them through his national security team, and [would] find a time to meet in person.”
The Reeds had hoped to meet with Biden to discuss their son’s case when he visited Fort Worth Tuesday for a pair of events dealing with veterans’ health.
However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One that they “weren’t able to make it happen on this trip.”
“I can tell you that our national security adviser met with his family back in the fall and that we are working on a time for the president to meet with his family over the short term as well,” she said. “I don’t have a time or date on that or anything like that, but that is something we are going to work toward.”
Joey Reed told “Fox & Friends First” Tuesday that he and his wife were “very disheartened” at being unable to meet Biden during his visit.
Reed, 30, was sentenced in July 2020 to nine years in prison for allegedly assaulting two Russian police officers after he became blackout drunk at a party the previous year.
Russian authorities claim Reed attacked the officers when they drove him to a police station to sober up. Reed’s family, girlfriend and other supporters claim the charges were fabricated so he could be used as a political bargaining chip.
Reed’s sentence was upheld by a Russian court last summer.
At the time, US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan criticized the court for not correcting “this gross injustice.”
During his detainment, Reed has been placed in a labor camp in Russia’s Mordovia region, where he is confined to a small cell that does not include a toilet, his family has said.
The former Marine was diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalized in May 2021. This week, his parents said Reed has begun coughing up blood “all day long,” but is being denied treatment for possible tuberculosis.
“While we are immensely proud of our son’s strength of character, we are also extremely worried about his health,” his family said in a statement in November.
“Our concern is magnified by Russian authorities’ decision to hold Trevor incommunicado which makes it impossible for us or the [US} Embassy to monitor his health,” they said.
Ahead of Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last June, Reed’s parents urged the two leaders to agree on an early release or prisoner swap.
“We’re hoping that they can come to some kind of agreement whether it be an early release for Trevor or a prisoner swap. We really don’t know what the options that are going to be put on the table,” Paula Reed told Fox News at the time. “We don’t care how it happens. We just want him home.”
At the time, Biden did raise Reed’s case — as well as that of another imprisoned former Marine, Paul Whelan — with Putin, who brought up possible discussions about a prisoner swap.
The US is currently holding two Russian citizens whom the Kremlin has sought to free for more than a decade: arms trader Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot extradited from Liberia in 2010 and convicted a year later of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US.
In November, Reed’s family told ABC they were unaware of any active talks between the US and Russia regarding their son’s status.
“This ordeal has gone on 815 days with no end in sight and we have been patient,” the family said in a statement.
That same month, Reed protested his imprisonment with a days-long hunger strike.