- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2020

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida became the latest Republican congressman Thursday to recommend President Trump pardon former U.S. intelligence contractor and leaker Edward J. Snowden.

Mr. Gaetz, one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress, suggested on Twitter that the president intervene and end the government’s case against the wanted secret-spiller.

“Edward @Snowden deserves a pardon from President @realDonaldTrump,” Mr. Gaetz said on Twitter in a post tagging each of their accounts on the social media service.

Mr. Snowden quickly shared the congressman’s suggestion with his own 4.3 million Twitter followers, while neither Mr. Trump nor the White House offered any immediate public reaction.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, indicated he agreed with Mr. Gaetz, meanwhile. “Matt is right,” the senator tweeted later Thursday in support of pardoning Mr. Snowden.

The Department of Justice has charged Mr. Snowden, 37, with violations of the U.S. Espionage Act and criminal theft in connection with leaking classified material to the press.

Mr. Snowden was overseas when he revealed himself to be the source of leaked National Security Agency documents shortly after they were first reported by the media in June 2013.

He was subsequently granted asylum by the Russian government and has lived there for more than seven years as a fugitive from the American justice system.

Reacting to the leaks after they occurred, Mr. Trump called Mr. Snowden a “traitor” and suggested he should be executed. He recently said he is reconsidering, however.

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

Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, posted the next day on Twitter that Mr. Trump should pardon Mr. Snowden.

Other members of the Republican Party, including Attorney General William P. Barr, have disagreed and recently echoed the president’s former rhetoric.

“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” he said last month, The Associated Press reported at the time.

Among the documents Mr. Snowden admittedly leaked to the media was classified material detailing the U.S. government’s vast foreign and domestic surveillance capabilities.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the NSA’s “bulk collection” of phone records — a program exposed by Mr. Snowden and accordingly reformed — violated the law.

In the latest episode of his podcast, “Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz,” the congressman said “the case for a pardon” has never been stronger following the ruling this week.

“If it were not for Snowden, we might not know today that our own government was engaged in an activity that now a federal appellate court has now deemed illegal,” Mr. Gaetz added.

Mr. Gaetz, a lawyer and member of the House Judiciary Committee, has previously been relatively successful and pressing Mr. Trump to act.

The congressman lobbied Mr. Trump to pardon Roger Stone, the president’s convicted former campaign adviser and friend, and correctly predicted he would intervene. Mr. Trump commuted Stone’s prison sentence days before it was scheduled to start.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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