As Trump weighs pardons, GOP divided on whether Snowden should receive one #Breaking112
Snowden, who has been living in exile in Russia for several years now, is accused of espionage and theft of government property in the United States after he leaked American intelligence secrets in 2013. If he returns home, Snowden could face a decades-long prison sentence.
In recent days, some Republicans have publicly split over whether Snowden is a traitor or a whistleblower, illustrating the ideological divide between lawmakers who vigorously defend the surveillance-state legacy of George W. Bush and Trump acolytes who harbor suspicions about the so-called “deep state” and what they see as its infringement on civil liberties.
Adding to the urgency is the unlikelihood that the incoming Biden administration would grant Snowden a pardon, despite support from some Democrats and high-profile human rights groups.
Trump’s close allies in Congress are picking up on that openness.
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who often has the President’s ear, insisted over the weekend that “Trump is listening to the many of us who are urging him” to pardon Snowden.
Some Republican hawks feel otherwise.
“To those urging a pardon of Edward Snowden: You are suggesting President @realDonaldTrump pardon a traitor. Edward Snowden is NOT a victim,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the President’s closest friends in the Senate and frequent golfing buddy, wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
Snowden has “American blood on his hands and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House, argued that a pardon for Snowden would be “unconscionable.”
“Edward Snowden is a traitor. He is responsible for the largest and most damaging release of classified info in US history. He handed over US secrets to Russian and Chinese intelligence putting our troops and our nation at risk. Pardoning him would be unconscionable,” Cheney tweeted Sunday.
Snowden has advocated for a pardon on Twitter, highlighting several members of Congress who have said he deserves one.
“In seven years, no one has named a single American who died as a result of revealing the unlawful program of domestic mass surveillance—because it didn’t happen. But exposing that crime did reform American laws—and strengthen our rights,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Trump’s acts of clemency have often been marked by personal connections, in which beneficiaries have won clemency by getting their requests to Trump directly, or through his friends, Fox News personalities or Hollywood celebrities.
Trump often bypasses the Justice Department’s Pardon Attorney process for assessing requests for executive clemency. It has led petitioners to contact the White House directly, calling or emailing senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mark Meadows or White House counsel Pat Cipollone — if they can’t reach Trump himself, CNN previously reported.
Trump has discussed granting preemptive pardons for people close to him, his children, his son-in-law and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
CNN’s Devan Cole, Pamela Brown, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.