Last week, President Donald Trump conferred with his aides about whether he should let anti-surveillance state whistle-blower Edward Snowden return to the U.S. from Russia without receiving criminal penalties.
“There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Trump said to The New York Post in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office, before asking his staff about the matter.
Trump talked about Snowden for the first time since he assumed the presidency. This came after Trump accused former President Barack Obama of spying on his campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
.“When you look at [former FBI Director James] Comey and [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe, and [former CIA Director John] Brennan — and, excuse me, the man that sat at this desk, President Obama, got caught spying on my campaign with [former Vice President Joe] Biden. Biden and Obama, and they got caught spying on the campaign,” Trump remarked.
Trump’s recent comments represent a relaxation in his tone about the man he once considered to be a “traitor”. Trump originally exclaimed that Snowden should have been put to death. Republican elected officials and the Justice Department’s inspector general recently uncovered abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the secret FISA court to spy on former Trump adviser Carter Page.
“Snowden is one of the people they talk about. They talk about numerous people, but he is certainly one of the people that they do talk about,” Trump said on August 13. “I guess the DOJ is looking to extradite him right now? … It’s certainly something I could look at. Many people are on his side, I will say that. I don’t know him, never met him. But many people are on his side.”
The president proceeded to ask his staff: “How do you feel about that, Snowden? Haven’t heard the name in a long time.”
After he was able to get an opinion of everyone in the room, Trump said: “I’ve heard it both ways. From traitor to he’s being, you know, persecuted. I’ve heard it both ways.”
Snowden’s legal team has worked tirelessly to negotiate Snowden’s return to the US without him having to receive a prison sentence, but to little avail. The former National Security Agency contractor exposed in 2013 how the FISA court was secretly approving surveillance efforts on a massive list of domestic phone calls.
Before assuming the presidency, Trump made at least 45 tweets condemning Snowden as a traitor and then demanding that he be executed.
Back in a 2013 tweet, Trump wrote: “Snowden is a spy who should be executed-but if it and he could reveal Obama’s records, I might become a major fan.”
Certain elected officials such as Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie have called for President Trump to pardon Snowden.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) August 14, 2020
This comes at a time when the president is considering pardons of certain Americans.
Trump should listen to congressman Massie. The same Deep State that Trump condemns is also behind the mass surveillance programs that were used to undermine his campaign in 2016.
President Trump could stir the pot by heeding Massie’s advice and issuing a pardon to Snowden. This would represent a major body blow to the powers that be.