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Republicans Pressure Biden To Bring Home Former Marine Imprisoned By Russia

March 4, 2021

House Republicans are putting increased pressure on the Biden administration to rescue a former Marine who has spent more than a year in a Russian prison following what officials have called a "show trial."

Reps. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) and August Pfluger (R. Texas) introduced a resolution Wednesday night that calls for the immediate release of Texas native Trevor Reed, whom Russia sentenced to nine years in prison for assaulting a police officer in 2019, a crime Reed and his legal team say he did not commit. The U.S. ambassador's office described Reed's sentencing as a show trial, and Moscow destroyed video evidence from the night in question, according to Reed's spokesman.

Joey and Paula Reed, the parents of Trevor Reed, told the Washington Free Beacon that the Biden administration should take immediate action to bring their son home. The Reeds say Trevor has been mistreated in prison, where he often experiences delays in medical supplies, and was forbidden from taking phone calls with his family for the first 14 months of his imprisonment. Russian authorities also delayed medical examinations of Reed and did not offer him food or water for days at a time.

"He’s had some medical issues, the embassy has had to fight to get him any kind of treatment. If you need a Motrin it will take you a week for them to get it," Joey Reed said. "It has been a very difficult year and a half."

According to Jonathan Franks, the Reed family's spokesman, most of the support for Reed’s case has come from Pfluger, McCaul, and Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas). Cornyn released a corresponding Senate bill last week pressuring the Biden administration to act. McCaul and Pfluger's bill received bipartisan support from 25 lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.).

Pfluger directly challenged Russian president Vladimir Putin to release the former Marine, saying that Reed has been used as a political pawn.

"Trevor Reed is an Eagle Scout, a Texan, and most importantly a U.S. Marine veteran, who the Russian government is clearly using as a political pawn," Pfluger said. "The trumped-up charges against him were so ludicrous that laughter even erupted in the courtroom. I will not stand for my constituent being held in a Russian jail for crimes he did not commit. I call on President Putin to release Trevor and reunite him with his family."

The Biden administration has so far only made public statements calling for Reed's release. The administration has prioritized engaging with Russia on extending a nuclear arms agreement—which critics perceive as a deeply flawed deal—and has issued sanctions over the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On none of these issues has the Biden administration linked talks or concessions to Reed’s case or the case of Paul Whelan, another American detained in Russia.

"When you’re dealing with governments, you never are going to know what their priorities or strategies are at the time," Joey Reed said. "We’d like to see the Russians make a goodwill gesture…. The issue is that there are so many issues between the two countries, you’d think this can be a part of some larger issue."

Reed’s case has been difficult for his family emotionally and financially. Paula Reed had to quit her job in order to coordinate efforts to free her son, all while Joey Reed lived in Russia for months hoping for increased visitation sessions with Trevor.

McCaul referenced the Reed family’s struggles in his own demands to the Biden administration and Moscow.

"Trevor’s wrongful imprisonment in Russia has gone on far too long. I have met with Trevor’s family and know that he is a great American and former Marine who served his country proudly," McCaul said. "I strongly urge the Biden administration to use all the tools available to bring Trevor home to his family as soon as possible." 

Beyond Reed, other families of detained Americans worldwide are asking for more attention from the Biden administration and general public. On Tuesday, the Free Beacon reported that the family of Matthew Heath, a former Marine detained and tortured in Venezuela, is hoping for a larger push from Washington to bring their son home.

The White House did not return a request for comment.