The parents of a Marine veteran imprisoned in Russia met with President Joe Biden and senior staffers at the White House on Wednesday.
Trevor Reed has been jailed in Russia since his arrest in 2019 on charges that he assaulted police officers in Moscow who were driving him to a police station after picking him up following a night of heavy drinking at a party. He was convicted in 2020 and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Joey and Paula Reed of Granbury, traveled to Washington this week to seek an in-person meeting with Biden after a phone conversation earlier this month when the president visited Texas. After the Reeds had stood along the route of Biden's motorcade in Texas in hopes it would stop — it did not — the White House said it would work to schedule a meeting.
The Reeds, who have publicly voiced concern about their son’s health in jail and have also expressed support for the idea of a prisoner swap, stood near the White House on Wednesday with a sign that read: “Free Trevor Reed. Prisoner of Russia Since 2019.”
On Wednesday evening, the couple met in the Oval Office with Biden and some senior administration officials for more than a half-hour.
“He was very gracious. He gave us more time than we thought he would give us, but we said we would keep the conversation private," said Paula Reed.
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The couple went on to say Biden shared his thoughts on the situation while they were given the chance to provide insight about Trevor and his declining health.
They said they left feeling optimistic.
“We’re very thankful to all of the people in the government who’ve been working on our son’s case. We just feel like whatever they’ve been doing hasn’t been working. That’s why wanted to speak to the boss. We wanted to talk with the man who makes the final decisions. We’ve now done that and we have to hope that he’ll do whatever it takes to get them out of there," said Joey Reed.
Wednesday evening, the White House released a statement about the meeting, saying "President Biden met today with Joey and Paula Reed, the parents of Trevor Reed, who is wrongfully detained in Russia. During their meeting, the President reiterated his commitment to continue to work to secure the release of Trevor, Paul Whelan, and other Americans wrongfully held in Russia and elsewhere, and to provide all possible assistance until they and others are free and returned home to their families who are advocating so passionately for their release. This is the President’s second interaction with the Reeds. On March 8, President Biden spoke to the Reeds by phone while he was in Texas.
The President’s national security team will remain in regular contact with the Reeds, the Whelan family, and other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. We are grateful for their partnership and feedback. We will continue to work to ensure we are communicating and sharing information in a way useful to these families.
Previously, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with the Reed family in a virtual group meeting and then privately in December. He expressed our commitment to bringing Trevor home. We understand the pain felt by all of Trevor’s families and friends enduring the nightmare of his absence, which we are committed to bringing to an end."
The Marine's family stood outside of the White House earlier in the day where they spoke with reporters.
"The hardest part of this is the people in this building behind us could have brought him home," said father Joey Reed. "We believe if we could speak to the President this would all get fixed."
It's been two-and-a-half years since Reed was arrested by Russian authorities on an assault charge that U.S. officials have called "preposterous".
The Reeds plan to meet with Texas Congressional leaders Thursday as they continue to push for a bipartisan plan to bring Trevor home.
In August of 2019, Reed was jailed on alleged charges of a drunken altercation with police and sentenced to nine years imprisonment. His family says those charges are bogus and that he's being used as a political pawn.
Reed had traveled to Russia to visit a longtime girlfriend and to study the language as part of his international studies degree at the University of North Texas.
The Reed family has pleaded with the U.S. government for help ever since, more recently turning directly to the Biden administration.
The family spoke on the phone with President Joe Biden during his recent trip to Fort Worth.
They were told Reed’s plight is a priority and that a meeting with the White House would be planned soon. That hasn’t happened yet.
"As a mother, it's really heartbreaking to think that Trevor is having to go through [this] because first, he's innocent and second, because of his service to our country and this president in particular," said Paula Reed. "He should have already been brought home. It's just very frustrating."
Reed once served as a presidential guard at Camp David and protected Biden while he was vice president.
The Reeds are calling on the Biden administration to do a prisoner swap to free their son and fellow Marine veteran Paul Whelan and WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was recently detained by the Russian government.
"One of the few things in Washington D.C. that both parties agree on is bringing these Americans home," said Joey Reed.
The family told NBC 5 they need more action before it's too late for their son, who is sick with tuberculosis while inside solitary confinement.
"We’re desperate," said his mother Paula Reed. "We’re at our wits end. We’re trying to save his life."
Recently, some lawmakers in Congress, including U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX 32nd District), have been pushing for the release of Americans detained in Russia, including Brittany Griner.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Allred’s office is working with the State Department to find “the best way forward” to secure her eventual release.