A number of Republicans are lobbying President Donald Trump to pardon Edward Snowden, Politico reported.
Snowden is a former contractor for the National Security Agency who exposed the NSA in 2013 by revealing that it was spying on the phones and computers of millions of Americans. As noted by The Washington Examiner, “Snowden revealed not just domestic surveillance programs but also exposed national security operations conducted around the world by the United States and its allies, including against terrorists and adversaries such as China.”
Snowden then fled to Russia where he has been living in exile to avoid prosecution from the United States government.
The argument for pardoning
Among those pushing for Snowden’s pardon are Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). The congressmen have argued that what Snowden did — exposing government abuse — isn’t something for which he should be prosecuted. “President Trump is listening to the many of us who are urging him to #PardonSnowden. It’s the right thing to do,” Gaetz tweeted earlier in December.
Paul has been making an appeal to Trump by pointing to the conduct of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, one of Trump’s biggest opponents. Paul argued that Snowden exposed Clapper by showing, contrary to statements made by Clapper under oath before Congress, the NSA was indeed spying on Americans.
“James Clapper brazenly lied to Congress denying that the Deep State was spying on all Americans,” Paul tweeted Dec. 13. “@Snowden simply revealed Clapper’s lies and exposed unconstitutional spying. He deserves a pardon from @realDonaldTrump!”
The argument against
Although many Republicans share Paul and Gaetz’s view that Snowden ought to be pardoned, several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Attorney General William Barr have been adamant against it.
“[Snowden] was a traitor, and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” Barr told The Associated Press in August. “He was peddling it around like a commercial merchant. We can’t tolerate that.”
As The Daily Caller noted, there’s also concern that Snowden has ties to American adversaries like China and Russia.
What will Trump do?
The president has stated several times that he is considering whether or not to pardon Snowden and has acknowledged that it’s a “split decision” among Republicans.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald argued that Trump has personal reasons to pardon Snowden, as the president sees connections between Snowden and the Russia collusion hoax.
“For those who still can’t comprehend why Trump twice said he was strongly considering a pardon of Snowden, it’s because — as he’s explains — he feels personally aggrieved by the precise abuses of power that Snowden risked his liberty to expose,” Greenwald tweeted earlier this month.