Aug 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top Republicans warn Trump not to pardon Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Snowden. Photo: Henrique Casinhas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Armed Services Committee issued a statement on Monday warning President Trump that pardoning whistleblower Edward Snowden would be a "serious mistake" that could undermine U.S. national security.

The big picture: A number of top Republicans, including House GOP Conference chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have spoken out after Trump said at a news conference on Saturday that he's going to take a "very good look" at pardoning Snowden, who faces criminal charges for leaking a massive trove classified documents in 2013 about U.S. government surveillance programs.

  • Trump himself had previously called Snowden a "traitor" and a "spy who should be executed" in the years prior to his election.
  • “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly,” Trump said in an interview with the New York Post last week. “I mean, I hear that.”

What they're saying: “It would be a serious mistake to pardon anyone who is charged under the Espionage Act, who admits to leaking sensitive information, and who has spent years since then as a guest of the Putin regime. Not only would it mean that Snowden cannot be held accountable for his crimes, but it would send a dangerous message to others who are contemplating espionage and the adversaries who would support them," Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement.

  • Cheney tweeted on Sunday: "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."
  • Graham tweeted on Monday: "I’m confident President Trump understands the crimes committed by Snowden resulted in American forces – and those who assisted us throughout the world – being placed in greater danger. ... To those who suggest a pardon of Edward Snowden for his treasonous acts, you are doing a great disservice to those who suffered from his betrayal of his nation."

The other side: Snowden, who is living under asylum in Russia, responded to the backlash over Trump's comments on Monday, tweeting: "Imagine my surprise to find only the worst people in the country willing to speak against a pardon this time around. How far we've come!"

Go deeper