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Brittney Griner's wife details events surrounding WNBA star's release in chat with Gayle King

Gayle King speaks to Cherelle Griner
Gayle King on conversation with Brittney Griner’s wife following her release 02:08

After the news broke that Brittney Griner was released by Russia in a one-for-one prisoner swap, her wife spoke to CBS News' Gayle King about how she learned the WNBA star would finally be free after 10 months in Russian prisons.

King recalled hearing her phone ring Thursday night as she was about to go on stage at an event. The person on the other end of the line was Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner's wife.

"I was very surprised she was calling at this particular time," King said. "I thought, 'What could this be?' So, I started asking her about her day."

Cherelle Griner told King she got a call from the White House about a week ago saying they were "feeling optimistic" but she had no idea what that meant. Then on Tuesday, Cherelle Griner was told she needed to go to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

"Again, she said she's very nervous," King said. "Is it good news, is it bad news? She started thinking, 'Why would they call me to Washington if it was good news?'" 

Despite not knowing what to expect, Cherelle Griner went, assuming she would be flying back home to Phoenix shortly after the trip. Instead, when she arrived in the nation's capital, President Joe Biden asked to see her.

"She goes into the Oval Office and she said the first thing Joe Biden said to her was, 'We got her,'" King said. "Which, she said, 'It just took me a minute to process exactly what that means.'"

King said there were reasons why the negotiation of Brittney Griner's release — which was in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — was kept so quiet.

"The White House was so concerned about it leaking that they gave her very little details," King said. "And she said but once she got in, they said there was going to be a news conference. And they asked her, 'Do you want to be in the audience? Do you want to stand beside me? Do you not want to be in the room?' And she was so thankful and so grateful to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. She said, 'I will stand beside the two of you because you are bringing my wife home.'"

By then, Cherelle Griner's happiness was easy to see after a difficult year.

"She's still on cloud nine," King said. "She said, 'Gayle ... I'm smiling so much, my face hurts.'"

Cherelle Griner also chose a particular color to commemorate her wife's return.

"She wore red yesterday," King said, "because it was Brittney's favorite color."

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