President Donald Trump just gave notice that he’s considering a pardon for Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who became a “whistleblower” in 2013 when he revealed that the federal government, by way of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), was secretly spying on and collecting information about virtually all U.S. citizens.
Snowden later fled the U.S. and obtained asylum in Russia. But the New York Post reported Thursday that Trump said he may use his clemency powers to allow Snowden to return without facing charges.
“There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Trump said in an exclusive interview, according to the Post.
The comments mark a reversal for Trump, who previously referred to the ex-NSA contractor as a “traitor” who deserved to face execution, the Post noted.
“One of the people they talk about”
In his interview with the Post, which took place in the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump seemed to suggest that given what we now know about how the Obama administration used the FISA courts, Snowden’s leaks may have had some merit.
“Snowden is one of the people they talk about,” he reportedly told the Post of his advisers. “They talk about numerous people, but he is certainly one of the people that they do talk about.”
Trump went on: “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.”
According to the Post, Trump asked aides in the room to weigh in on the matter.
“I’ve heard it both ways,” he remarked afterward. “From traitor to he’s being, you know, persecuted. I’ve heard it both ways.”
“I’m going to take a look”
According to the Post, Snowden’s legal team remains in negotiations with U.S. officials on a deal that would allow Snowden to return to the U.S. without fear of repercussions, which could include a lengthy prison sentence. Some of the information he released was said to be classified.
The latest news should provide some much-needed hope to Snowden and his team, however. According to the Daily Caller, the president again broached the topic during a press briefing at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“I’ve seen people that are very conservative and very liberal and they agree. They agree both ways,” the president said, as the Daily Caller reported. “I’m going to take a look at that very strongly, Edward Snowden.”