Russian officials are considering sending the famed whistleblower Edward Snowden back to America as “a gift” to President Donald Trump, according to a report from NBC News.
Snowden, a former CIA employee, was granted asylum by the Russian government in 2013. He sought to escape charges of espionage, having leaked classified information concerning U.S surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA.)
However, a senior U.S official told NBC News that Russian authorities are now considering turning him over to the United States, where he would face trial, in order to “curry favor” with Trump and the new administration.
In December, the Russian foreign ministry revealed they had extended Snowden’s permit until 2020.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in 2015, Trump described Snowden as a “total traitor,” adding that if he became president, “Putin would give him over. Snowden is a spy who should be executed.”
“If I’m president, Putin says, hey, boom, you’re gone,” he continued.
“A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration,” according to NBC.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo also warned last February that Snowden’s return could lead to his execution, arguing that the “proper outcome [of his conviction] would be that he would be given a death sentence.”
Lawyers for Edward Snowden dismissed the claims, saying that “Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern.”
One item that some Jewish religious leaders in the United States hope to see Putin offer is the Schneerson Collection, a library of sacred texts stolen by the Nazis and currently in the possession of the Russian government, which rabbis have tried for decades to recover.
In the final week of his presidency, Barack Obama pardoned former United States soldier Chelsea Manning, who was serving 35 years in jail for leaking classified military documents to Wikileaks.
Should Snowden be convicted on charges of espionage, he would face a minimum of 30 years in prison.