U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz believes former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden deserves a pardon from President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the warrantless telephone snooping program that secretly collected millions of Americans’ telephone records violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The Department of Justice charged Snowden under the Espionage Act in 2013 with disclosing details of highly classified government surveillance programs. Those leaks seven years ago led to Wednesday’s ruling.
Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who is one of Trump’s staunchest defenders, explained his belief on Thursday’s episode of his podcast. The Representatives words in the episode were more deferential to the President than his earlier tweet but carried the same message.
“As of today, the case has never been stronger that Edward Snowden deserves a pardon from President Trump. I would support a pardon for Edward Snowden,” he said. “If it were not for Snowden, we might not know today that our own government was engaged in an activity that now a federal appellate court has deemed illegal.”
Trump in the past has called Snowden a traitor suggested he should be executed. But recently said he would “look at” whether to pardon Snowden.
“There are many, many people — it seems to be a split decision that many people think that he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things,” Trump said of Snowden at a news conference on Saturday. “And I’m going to take a very good look at it.”
But Attorney General William Barr, who now leads the Department of Justice, told The Associated Press that he would be “vehemently opposed” to any attempt to pardon him.
“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” Barr said. “He was peddling it around like a commercial merchant. We can’t tolerate that.”
Politically, the move would also benefit the President, Gaetz added.
“You’ve got a lot of folks in Michigan and elsewhere that have the option of a libertarian candidate to vote for,” he said. “I think if President Trump were to pardon Edward Snowden, you would see just tremendous enthusiasm among libertarian-leaning voters for the President.”
He added that pardoning Snowden and bringing him home from Russia is the right thing to do.
“It’s what Trump promised us, that he would call a spade a spade, that he wouldn’t be beholden to the dogmas and doctrines of yesteryear that have constrained our country and that have empowered an incompetent government against our people,” Gaetz said.
As an aside, he added a qualifier that could make a pardon more palatable to opponents.
“Maybe we can make the pardon conditional on Snowden’s willingness to go back to work for our government and help us get the bad guys without violating the rights of American citizens,” he added. “America First means the rights of American citizens first, and those rights would be vindicated with a pardon of Edward Snowden.”
Snowden retweeted the link to Gaetz’s podcast episode after tweeting about the ruling Wednesday.
“I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them. And yet that day has arrived,” he tweeted.
Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul tweeted in agreement with Gaetz.
“Matt is right. This is important. @Snowden exposed illegal and unconstitutional actions by the Deep State, including Clapper and others who went after @realDonaldTrump and lied about it,” he wrote.