Donald Trump

Edward Snowdon “not being treated fairly”

Before taking office, Trump tweeted at least 45 times denouncing Snowden as a traitor and calling for his execution

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US PRESS GROUP

Donald Trump did an interview with the New York Post that was published yesterday, in which he said he thinks a “lot of people” think Edward Snowden is “not being treated fairly”.

Trump’s comments reflect a remarkable softening in his views about the man he once deemed a “traitor” worthy of execution, the Post reports.

This is quite the tangle because the president is not a fan of rebel Republican congressman Thomas Massie, who tweeted earlier today urging the president to pardon Snowden.

Trump has called Massie a “third rate Grandstander” and “a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky!”, for trying to obstruct legislation.

Snowden, meanwhile, is the American whistleblower who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency employee and subcontractor. He revealed the news covertly to the Guardian at the time, then did interviews with this outlet after he fled to Hong Kong, before retreating to Moscow to avoid any extradition to the US.

The NY Post writes:

Trump polled his aides on Thursday about whether he should let anti-surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden return to the US from Russia without going to prison, saying he was open to it.

“There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Trump told The Post in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office, before soliciting views from his staff.

Trump commented on Snowden for the first time as president after accusing former President Barack Obama of spying on his 2016 campaign.....

...Republican lawmakers and the Justice Department’s inspector general recently highlighted misuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the secret FISA court to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page.

“Snowden is one of the people they talk about. They talk about numerous people, but he is certainly one of the people that they do talk about,” Trump said on Thursday, before turning to his aides. “I guess the DOJ is looking to extradite him right now? … It’s certainly something I could look at. 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.”

The president then asked his staff: “How do you feel about that, Snowden? Haven’t heard the name in a long time.”

After polling the room, Trump added: “I’ve heard it both ways. From traitor to he’s being you know persecuted. I’ve heard it both ways.”

Snowden’s legal team has tried in vain to negotiate a prison-free return to the US for the former National Security Agency contractor, who exposed that the FISA court was secretly approving the dragnet collection of domestic call records.

Before taking office, Trump tweeted at least 45 times denouncing Snowden as a traitor and calling for his execution.

Barack Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder said about Edward Snowden in 2016, via a CNN report at the time: Edward Snowden performed a “public service” by triggering a debate over surveillance techniques - but still must pay a penalty for illegally leaking a trove of classified intelligence documents.

“We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made,” Holder told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

“Now I would say that doing what he did -- and the way he did it -- was inappropriate and illegal,” Holder added.

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