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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

Aug 17, 2020 - World

Former CIA officer arrested and charged with espionage for China

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Former CIA officer Alexander Yuk Ching Ma has been arrested and charged with allegedly sharing classified information with China, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Our thought bubble, via Axios China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: No one should underestimate China’s intelligence services. In the past decade, the efforts of Chinese intelligence to identify as many individual CIA personnel as possible have paid off, resulting in the decommissioning of dozens of CIA assets in China.

Senate report finds Manafort passed campaign data to Russian intelligence officer

Paul Manafort. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the fifth and final volume of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, which details "counterintelligence threats and vulnerabilities."

Why it matters: The bipartisan, 966-page report goes further than the Mueller report in showing the extent of Russia's connections to members of the Trump campaign, and how the Kremlin was able to take advantage of the transition team's inexperience to gain access to sensitive information.

Senate Armed Services chair dismisses Trump threat to veto defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he plans to move ahead with a crucial defense-spending bill without provisions that would eliminate tech industry protections, defying a veto threat from President Trump.

Why it matters: Inhofe's public rebuke signals that the Senate could have enough Republican backing to override a potential veto from Trump, who has demanded that the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.