Russian officials have discussed the possibility of extraditing whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US as a way to improve political relations with President Donald Trump, according to NBC News.
Snowden fled his job as an NSA contractor in 2013, when he leaked top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs to journalists that exposed widespread surveillance on Americans through the bulk collection of metadata. He was then granted asylum in Moscow.
Ultimately, Snowden has already been charged under the Espionage Act and could face decades in prison or the death penalty if returned to the US.
Some advisers around Mr. Putin believe that giving Snowden as “a gift” to the US would improve the Kremlin’s standing with the new president and help Russia achieve its foreign policy goals.
Snowden took to Twitter to respond to NBC’s report on Friday, saying that the new report from NBC News is proof that he was never a spy.
Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they're next. https://t.co/YONqZ1gYqm
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 10, 2017
In 2014 Trump called the NSA leaker a “traitor” and “spy” who should be executed.
Snowden is a spy who has caused great damage to the U.S. A spy in the old days, when our country was respected and strong, would be executed
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2014
The White House did not immediately comment on the NBC report, but the Justice Department told the network that it would welcome the return of Snowden.
The Kremlin has denied the allegations and said the possibility of comrade Snowden’s handover was “nonsense”.