- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2020

President Trump faced a fresh push Friday from within the Republican Party to pardon Edward J. Snowden, the former U.S. contractor who leaked secrets about government surveillance.

Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, urged Mr. Trump to intervene after a report indicated the president may consider the possibility of letting Mr. Snowden avoid prison.

Posting on Twitter, Mr. Massie tagged the accounts of both Mr. Trump and Mr. Snowden and encouraged the president to pardon the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor.

“Employees of the US government violated the Constitution and lied to Congress and the American people about it. @Snowden exposed them. This is bigger than him. If he’s punished for his service to the Constitution, there will be more violations of the Constitution, and more lies,” Mr. Massie, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Science, said in a subsequent tweet explaining his reasoning.

Mr. Snowden, 37, admittedly leaked classified NSA documents to the media in 2013 about the U.S. government’s domestic and foreign surveillance capabilities and accordingly faces related criminal charges of theft and violations of the U.S. Espionage Act. He was outside the U.S. when the leaks and charges became public and has not returned since, however.

The New York Post reported Thursday that during a White House interview, Mr. Trump polled his aides about whether he should let Mr. Snowden return to the U.S without going to prison.

“There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Mr. Trump told The Post, the newspaper reported afterward.

“Many people are on his side, I will say that. I don’t know him, never met him. But many people are on his side,” Mr. Trump added, according to the newspaper. “I’ve heard it both ways. From traitor to he’s being you know persecuted. I’ve heard it both ways.”

Indeed, Mr. Trump was among those who publicly called Mr. Snowden a “traitor” after he disclosed secrets about the U.S. government’s vast surveillance apparatus.

Snowden is a spy who has caused great damage to the U.S.,” Mr. Trump tweeted in 2014. “A spy in the old days, when our country was respected and strong, would be executed.”

Mr. Trump has since become highly critical of the U.S. government’s surveillance operations and regularly accuses the previous administration of deploying it against this campaign.

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