Senior House lawmaker defends Putin’s decision to grant asylum to Snowden

A senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee defended Russia President Vladimir Putin’s decision to grant asylum to accused spy Edward Snowden. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the chairman of the Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Subcommittee, said President Obama and his Republican colleagues have gone too far in condemning Putin’s actions.

“Snowden was just alerting us to our government getting out of hand. Russia accepting him for asylum I think was not as hostile an act as was being portrayed,” Rohrabacher said in an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program.

Rohrabacher has jurisdiction over U.S.-Russia relations through his subcommittee.

Rohrabacher split with Democrats and Republicans who urged Obama to retaliate against Russia’s safeguarding of the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed classified details about programs to monitor millions of phone records and Internet communications.

At the urging of lawmakers from both parties, Obama cancelled a summit meeting with Putin that was scheduled next month in Moscow.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an influential voice on foreign policy issues, last month said the United States should boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi if Russia granted asylum to Snowden.

Rohrabacher argued that Russia is an important ally in fighting Islamic terrorism and containing Chinese expansion.

“I certainly would not have attacked president Putin himself and treated him like the enemy for granting asylum when we need his help,” he said.

Obama told reporters Friday that he does not have a bad personal relationship with Putin, even if the Russian leader’s body language sometimes suggests otherwise.

The president described Putin’s “kind of slouch” as reminiscent of “the bored kid in the back of the classroom” but he says their discussions are often “constructive."

Obama on Friday said it would be appropriate to put the U.S.-Russia relationship on pause to give his administration time to reassess it in the wake of Russia granting safe harbor to Snowden.

Rohrabacher also disputed Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) description of Snowden as a “traitor.” 

“Declaring What Mr. Snowden did by alerting the American people to over surveillance on the part of our own government, of our population, to call him a traitor, is going too far,” he said. “In fact, he was being loyal to the rest of us by letting the American people know that their government was getting out of hand.”

Earlier this year, Rohrabacher said Boehner should lose his speakership if he brings an immigration reform bill to the House floor that a majority of Republicans do not support.