The White House remains “bound and determined to ensure that we work through a successful method of securing Paul Whelan's release at the earliest possible opportunity,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday, even as he acknowledged that, over the last several months, it’s become apparent, “what Russia was asking for to secure Paul Whelan's release was not something that we had to be able to give,” APA reports citing CNN.
“That is a problem we are trying to solve – we have various ways that we are working through solutions, and we will be endeavoring on a daily basis, from the President on down, to finally develop a formula that works,” Sullivan told reporters during Monday’s White House press briefing, citing “the sensitivity of these issues.”
“And that's as far as I can go today, but I will just reinforce that our commitment to this is absolutely rock solid, intense, and this is as high a priority as the President has,” he added.
Sullivan later told CNN’s Phil Mattingly that administration officials “will have an engagement with [the Russian federation] this week,” to address Whelan’s case, but “I won't say more about it, because we're trying to keep that in sensitive channels, but that's the timetable, and we have had regular engagement, of course, along the way and the next conversation at a high level will take place this week.”
But he dismissed the idea that the US would change a specific policy, including with respect to Ukraine, in exchange for Whelan’s release.
“I can't really answer a question as general as that – I mean, if the implication is are we going to take a different approach to Ukraine or something like that? The answer is no. We're not going to take a different approach to Ukraine,” Sullivan said.
He confirmed that members of the National Security Council and the State Department met Monday with Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan, virtually, but told reporters that he wasn’t a part of the meeting.
“I did participate in the conversation the President had with Elizabeth a few days ago, where they too were brainstorming and talking through ideas about how to go forward-- you'll understand that I can't get into the specifics of the kinds of things that we are contemplating to try to ensure that we get Paul home as soon as we can,” Sullivan said.
“I will just say that the conversations with Paul Whelan's family have been substantive, they have had a number of very good questions, and also a number of suggestions that they've put forward and we have been working to figure out what it is going to take to ultimately secure his freedom and how we can go about getting that and being able to sit down with the Russians and work out a deal,” he added.