In a stark reversal of his past position, President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he is mulling a pardon for Edward J. Snowden, who leaked classified documents about vast government surveillance.
“There are many, many people — it seems to be a split decision — many people think that he should be somehow be treated differently and other people think he did very bad things,” Trump said at a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “I’m going to take a very good look at it.”
Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, disclosed state surveillance that had been the stuff of conspiracy theories before his action. He fled the country, and has been in Russia since 2013.
Trump previously called Snowden a traitor and claimed he was a “spy who should be executed. That was before his 2016 election.
Snowden advocates claim that Snowden is a hero for exposing the scope of US surveillance, which included monitoring of phone records and eavesdropping on foreign leaders. His detractors say he revealed classified information.
Trump spoke about Snowden during a Thursday interview with the The New York Post. “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly,” Trump said in that interview. “I mean, I hear that.”
Snowden was charged with violating the Espionage Act and faced a long prison sentence before he left the country. He has said he will not return to the United States while facing those charges.
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