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Top House Armed Services lawmakers warn against Trump pardoning Snowden

Top House Armed Services lawmakers warn against Trump pardoning Snowden
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The House Armed Services Committee's top Democrat and Republican on Monday warned President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE against pardoning Edward Snowden, saying the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower “did enormous harm” to U.S. national security.

“Edward Snowden did enormous harm to our national security and he must stand trial for his actions,” committee Chairman Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Bottom line A long overdue discussion on Pentagon spending MORE (D-Wash.), and ranking member Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Chamber of Commerce endorses former White House physician Ronny Jackson for Congress MORE (R-Texas) said in a joint statement. 

“President Trump and [Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: US, India to share satellite data | Allegations of racism at Virginia Military Institute | Navy IDs 2 killed in Alabama plane crash US, India to share sensitive satellite data Trump has list of top intelligence officials he'll fire if he wins reelection: report MORE] have both decried harmful leaks from the Department of Defense and elsewhere in the federal government. To pardon Snowden now would completely undermine this Administration’s position and mock our national security workforce who take immense caution in their work to keep us safe,” they wrote.

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Trump at a Saturday press conference at his golf club in New Jersey said that he was looking at pardoning the former NSA contractor, who was charged with espionage in 2013 after he released a trove of classified documents on U.S. surveillance programs.

“I’m not that aware of the Snowden situation, but I’m going to start looking at it,” Trump said.

Trump also last week told the New York Post that he’s been thinking of allowing Snowden — who fled the U.S. and gained asylum in Russia — to return to the U.S. without facing jail time.

The recent remarks are an about-face from comments he made more than seven years ago, when he said in a 2013 interview that he thought Snowden was “a terrible threat” and “traitor.”

Since the president’s Saturday comments, House Armed Services Committee member Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has also spoken out against such a move, calling the idea “unconscionable.”

Thornberry and Smith added that it would be “a serious mistake” to pardon anyone who is charged under the Espionage Act, as it would “send a dangerous message to others who are contemplating espionage and the adversaries who would support them.” 

But pardoning Snowden has also gained increasing support in the years since the leak. A number of lawmakers and civil liberties advocates voiced approval of Trump's recent comments, arguing that Snowden exposed unconstitutional surveillance practices.