Joshua Geltzer, deputy homeland security adviser at the White House National Security Council, is on "The Takeout" this week with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett to discuss the Biden administration's efforts to bring home Americans wrongfully detained abroad — including Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan in Russia, and Austin Tice in Syria.
Geltzer and Garrett also talk about a new national action plan on drones, the administration's handling of immigration at the Southwest border, and more.
Here are some of the highlights from this week's episode with Geltzer:
Negotiations to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan from Russian prison: "The public has heard Secretary of State Blinken indicate publicly that the U.S. government has put a significant offer on the table that in our view would resolve and should resolve the situation with respect to those being held wrongfully by the Russian government. We now think it's incumbent on the Russians to be responsive to that and to work with us in resolving an unacceptable situation. How that gets discussed, how that gets worked out, as you rightly previewed, happens largely in private… There is a Russian government that is treating Paul Whelan, Brittney Griner, unacceptably. And ultimately, we will continue to press offers, even painful ones, until we can resolve this situation."
Why the U.S. shared details of the Griner negotiations publicly: "We only did it because we thought it would be helpful, that public acknowledgement would be helpful to shaking loose a situation that we continue to regard as unacceptable. And we do think one of the values of it is that those who rightly follow these issues, because they care the same way we care, could understand that we are doing the work that should resolve these situations and it takes two. It takes another government to work with us in reaching a satisfactory resolution."
Locating and freeing journalist Austin Tice: "We are quite confident that the right actor for us as a government to talk to, to bring Austin home and resolve this, is the Syrian government, and we are eager to have that conversation. And it is a conversation we have tried to generate and that we will keep trying to generate because we see that as really the only viable pathway towards resolving a situation that never should have arisen in the first place and certainly should not have gone on for ten years, and that it is overdue to get resolved…Those of us who work on these issues, who work on Austin's case in particular, go at our work every day on the assumption and the belief that Austin is alive. That is how we go about our work. That is how we continue to try to find new avenues to resolve the case."
Health of Paul Whelan: "I think we don't have a particular reason beyond a baseline of concern, which is that those in those camps do not get the sort of treatment we as a government try to give to those who, again, quite differently have gone through or are going through our judicial process with due process and adequate representation. And so we are always concerned, even in the absence of particular information of the type we had for Trevor Reed that further increased our worry about his health. We start with a baseline that they shouldn't be there and we're worried about them while they're there."
What he says to families of those who are wrongfully detained: "What I say to families is I don't expect them to be happy with the government, satisfied with the government, pleased with the government until their loved one is home. And even then, that's just us doing our job. They're welcome to be frustrated. They're welcome to be concerned. They're welcome to be distraught at times."
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
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