Top House Armed Services lawmakers warn against Trump pardoning Snowden
The House Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat and Republican on Monday warned President Trump 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 Smith (D-Wash.), and ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a joint statement.
“President Trump and [Defense Secretary Mark Esper] 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.
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.”
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.