Government leaker Edward Snowden may some day be able to strike a deal to return to the U.S. without jail time, according to former Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderDem rep: Jim Crow's 'nieces and nephews' are in the White House Obama to attend Pittsburgh Steelers owner's funeral Ex-Uber employee who spurred sexual harassment probe to lead new publication MORE.
In an interview with Yahoo News published on Monday, Holder threw cold water on the notion that the former contractor — who has been holed up in Moscow for two years — would never again step foot on U.S. soil.
During the interview, Holder also appeared to go further toward praising Snowden’s actions than other members of the Obama administration have been willing to do.
“His actions spurred a necessary debate,” Holder told Yahoo News.
“We are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures.”
Snowden has been charged with multiple crimes for his 2013 leak of classified federal documents, including Espionage Act violations that could land him in jail for decades. Because of the nature of the charges, Snowden’s supporters say that he would not be able to fairly give his side of the story in court.
Snowden’s legal team has long been in discussions with Obama administration officials to potentially reduce those charges in exchange for Snowden’s return home, but those talks have so far failed to yield any progress.
On Monday, Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman said that the U.S.’s position on his charges had not changed.
“This is an ongoing case so I am not going to get into specific details but I can say our position regarding bringing Edward Snowden back to the United States to face charges has not changed,” she said in a statement shared with The Hill.
In the interview, Holder declined to detail what a deal with Snowden might look like.
In the past, officials have suggested that the odds of a deal may decrease with the passage of time, since Snowden would have less and less to offer in exchange for leniency. Others, meanwhile, have suggested that the Obama administration — or a future White House — might ultimately benefit from the symbolic victory of having Snowden serve at least some time in a U.S. jail cell rather than letting him live in Russia.
Holder left the Justice Department earlier this year and is now returning to the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling. His tenure was criticized for enthusiastic prosecutions of government leakers such as Snowden.