Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor recently sentenced to over five years in prison for leaking classified material to the media, will seek a reprieve from the White House in light of President Trump calling her punishment “so unfair,” she said Friday.
Speaking by telephone from Lincoln County jail near Augusta, Georgia, Winner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she will ask Mr. Trump for clemency on the heels of him publicly criticizing the 63-month sentence she received last week for leaking a top-secret NSA report on Russian election meddling, the newspaper reported.
“We’re all having a conversation in regard to how we’re going to move forward,” added Titus Nichols, one of Winner’s attorneys.
A former Air Force linguist, Winner was arrested in June 2017 and charged with violating the Espionage Act under the first criminal leak case prosecuted by the Trump administration. She ultimately pleaded guilty to a single count of willful retention and transmission of national defense information and was sentenced last Thursday by a federal court judge in Augusta, Georgia.
Mr. Trump responded to Winner’s sentence the next day on Twitter in a tweet criticizing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for not similarly prosecuting Democratic rival Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email service as secretary of state.
“Ex-NSA contractor to spend 63 months in jail over ‘classified’ information. Gee, this is ‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
“When he said that, it just reminded me of everything I’ve learned, in that, it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with a person or a policy,” reacted Winner, 26. “You can criticize and call someone whatever you want, but if you turn around and you’re not kind, and you don’t drop everything for the person next to you to help them, then your criticism means nothing,” she told the Journal-Constitution.
Specifics involving Winner’s crime are heavily redacted in related court documents, but she is presumed to be the source of a top-secret NSA report detailing alleged Russian cyberattacks waged against U.S. targets during the 2016 race. An article based on the report was published by The Intercept the same day authorities announced Winner’s arrest in June 2017, and special counsel Robert Mueller charged several Russian nationals more than a year later in connection with criminal activity related to conduct contained in that report.