Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden says a report Friday about Russia eyeing him as a potential “gift” for President Trump provides “irrefutable evidence” that he is not a spy.
The report, from NBC, said Russia is looking to “curry favor” with Trump by sending Snowden packing back to the U.S. The report cited one senior U.S. official and another intelligence source.
Snowden responded to the report Friday evening, calling it “irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel.”
“No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next,” he added.
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Russia has granted Snowden asylum since 2013 after he leaked secret information from the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, and as recently as January said it would extend Snowden’s asylum to 2020.
Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, told NBC News he was unaware of the talks, saying, “Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern.”
NBC News reported that the Justice Department said it welcomed the prospect of Snowden returning to the U.S. He faces federal charges that could put him behind bars for at least 30 years.
Trump, in 2013, himself has called for extreme retribution against the man he called a “traitor,” adding he would “deal with him harshly.” He later added that Snowden “is a spy who should be executed.”
Not everyone in the U.S. views Snowden as a traitor that deserves punishment, and is seen as a whistleblower by some. More than a million people signed a White House petition asking former President Barack Obama to pardon him, including signatures from leaders of various human rights groups. As of Friday evening, a new petition that began the day of Trump’s inauguration had 100,000 signatures.