The White House all but ruled out Tuesday the possibility of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden being pardoned by President Obama before he leaves office.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Snowden “has not submitted paperwork to seek clemency” with the Department of Justice.
Even if Snowden does file such an application, it’s unlikely there would be enough time to process it before Obama leaves office on Friday. Clemency petitions typically take months for the Justice Department to sort through.
However, an application is not required by law for the administration to issue a pardon.
Speculation has swirled that Obama will grant clemency to Snowden, who faces espionage charges for leaking classified material in 2013 about controversial NSA surveillance programs.
Snowden is currently living in Russia and has not returned to the U.S. to face the charges.
But Earnest indicated Obama would not issue a pardon to Snowden by drawing a distinction between his case and that of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified information.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” the spokesman said last week.
“Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
Manning is reportedly under consideration for clemency from Obama, though the White House has declined to comment on her case.
Obama is expected to commute the sentences of several hundred more non-violent drug offenders before he leaves office.