“These Actions Have Targeted Not Only against Russia, But Also Against the President Elect”

Given the news that Donald Trump is considering pardoning Edward Snowden, there has been a lot of discussion about why Trump would do this.

It’s actually not a deviation from past actions. Just seven days after the election, Trump’s rat-fucker started working on a pardon for Julian Assange, something that Trump offered a very circumscribed answer to Mueller about. He continued to entertain such proposals, and even ordered then CIA Director Mike Pompeo to consider a theory purporting to undermine the Russian attribution of the hack, one understood to be tied to an Assange pardon.

And on March 15, 2017, Trump shared information with Tucker Carlson that would have tipped off Joshua Schulte that the FBI considered him the culprit behind the Vault 7 leaks. While Trump shared that information hours before the FBI searched Schulte’s residence and seized his passports (including a diplomatic passport he never returned to CIA), there’s no evidence that information was made public before the FBI confronted Schulte that night. Had it, though, Trump’s comments might have led Schulte to accelerate a trip to Mexico he already had scheduled. John Solomon would even go on to blame Jim Comey for not pardoning Assange in advance of the Vault 7 releases.

So Trump has repeatedly undermined the prosecution of people who released large amounts of intelligence community secrets. Snowden would just be part of a pattern.

There’s some complaint that Trump opponents — including Adam Schiff — have suggested Trump would do this (dramatically altering his prior stance) because of Putin.

In fact, Russia has deliberately encouraged Trump to believe Russia and Trump were on the same side, opposed to the US intelligence community, since weeks before he was even inaugurated.

When, on December 31, 2016, Sergey Kislyak called Mike Flynn to tell him that his intervention to undermine sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 election had succeeded in persuading Putin to take no action, Kislyak told Flynn that Russia considered the sanctions — for a hostile attack on this country!!! — to be an attack targeting not just Russia, but Trump himself.

KISLYAK: Uh, you know I have a small message to pass to you from Moscow and uh, probably you have heard about the decision taken by Moscow about action and counter-action.

FLYNN: yeah, yeah well I appreciate it, you know, on our phone call the other day, you know, I, I, appreciate the steps that uh your president has taken. I think that it is was wise.

KISLYAK: I, I just wanted to tell you that our conversation was also taken into account in Moscow and …


KISLYAK: Your proposal that we need to act with cold heads~ uh, is exactly what is uh, invested in the decision.


KISLYAK: And I just wanted to tell you that we found that these actions have targeted not only against Russia, but also against the president elect.

FLYNN: yeah, yeah.

“Yeah, yeah,” Trump’s weak-kneed National Security Advisor with 30 years intelligence experience said in reply.

We don’t need to speculate about whether Russia has encouraged Trump to view Russia as an ally against a hostile American Intelligence Community. We have proof. And even Mike Flynn, with a victim complex only a fraction as Yuge as Trump’s own, simply nodded along.

I mean, if Trump does pardon Snowden, by all means he should accept it — it likely would save his life.

But if you believe Trump is considering this out of any belief in whistleblowing or transparency — or even opposition to the surveillance that has ratcheted up and gotten less accountable under his Administration — you’re simply deceiving yourself.

And, yes, there is concrete evidence that Russia has cultivated Trump’s antagonism against the IC — well before Trump’s own actions led the FBI investigate him personally — so much that he might pardon Snowden to harm them.

19 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    As ably noted by ew, Snowden lives on borrowed time in the former Soviet Union, and the motive to stick it to the IC must be awfully appealing. However, Snowden isn’t a dummy, and I think he will have a choice to make: flee Putin while he still can (I’m sure everything useful to the FSB has already been pumped out) with a good chance if prison time once Biden is elected, or stay where he is while no longer being useful (perhaps on the fifth floor with open windows), or find a new home without an extradition treaty. Maybe MBS would help, but what does Snowden have to offer in exchange that MBS doesn’t already have with Jared, et al? Maybe there will be an island of misfit twerps (can we rent Ascension, South Georgia or Bouvet? We don’t want to waste Johnson Atoll) he can join the WH staff at.

    • Tyler says:

      You seem to suggest that the threat to Snowden comes from Putin but it is not clear to me why that is the case at all.

      I took EW’s comment that a pardon from Trump would save Snowden’s life to be because he would no longer be targeted by US not them.

      Why would Russia want to kill him? I think they likely didnt take him in for any counter-intelligence value, but instead purely for propaganda/PR reasons.

    • graham firchlis says:

      Who benefits from killing Snowden? Whatever he took is long since gone. No longer a threat, no benefit to the US to kill him. He’s still a propaganda plus for Russia, earns his own keep. He can’t harm them, the information flow was surely one-way; he’s a sneak thief, not 007. When he isn’t useful, they can trade or dump him.

      • bmaz says:

        Think that is a fair question. Not sure anybody really needs to “target” Snowden. Would he and his girlfriend, Ms. Mills, like to come home and be free to travel again? Yes, think they very much would. Are there crazies that might want to attack him? Sure. But those people are always out there.

      • Tyler says:

        Yeah, I’m not sure there is a *benefit* to the US killing Snowden, I just have to imagine that any major threat to him would come from our IC. Just given the nature of their business and how much he pissed them off. But I agree it would be a crazy thing to attempt. Plus hugely immoral and unjust from my standpoint.

        A bigger question for me is, if there is really an NSA vs CIA turf war, it isnt clear to me that the CIA shouldn’t LOVE Snowden. He basically put them back in the game! (Likewise, if the NSA was honest they would name a building after Josh Schultz)

    • viget says:

      Come on guys, why would Putin want to kill Snowden? Simple, time to clean up the op. The USIC knows the whole game, Snowden isn’t useful anymore to Russia as propaganda, and he’s probably about to be indicted with the forthcoming 2nd superseding Assange indictment. Who knows what that will reveal?

      He knows too much. Putin needs to clean house.

  2. gimcrackers says:

    Was hoping you’d touch on this.

    Clearly a massive FU to the IC, but beyond that I couldn’t see a worthwhile upside for Putin, as he currently has some control over an entity the US justice system wants—why relinquish?

    I’m not understanding the real harm this could cause the IC, beyond a temporary dip in morale. But it’s not like they don’t who they’re at the table with.

    (Please be gentle with any skewers – first time commenter and world politics is so NOT my strong suit. But hey at least I’m curious.)

    • bmaz says:

      Heh, you are doing just fine, and welcome to Emptywheel. Please do join in more frequently. It is a great crowd and not really that scary!

    • Desider says:

      My guess it’s an FU from Putin to the IC – great PR for his fans at home and abroad -as well as a favor to Snowden for his service, who could travel and *never* return to the US to testify? Just a thought.

  3. graham firchlis says:

    Also Scooter Libby, not convicted but surely involved in outing Valerie Plame.

    Trump’s political fortunes have been inextricably interwoven with Russian objectives at least since Trump Tower, and likely long before. Damaging and destroying US governmental institutions built around human rights, along with majoritarian democracy itself, serves the purposes of oligarchs everywhere, those who enable Putin and Trump alike.

    Thanks so much, Ms. Wheel, for your clear analysis of these complicated issues. Always feel better, if only just a bit.

  4. EchoDelta says:

    The theme that keeps coming back to me is organized crime. The dividing area between organized crime and no official cover intelligence practices are grey fuzz, and for over fifty years we have seen organized crime figures deeply involved with the GOP, CIA, and FBI. In this case, Putin is just the response to the tech question “Does it scale?”
    Trump is clearly Mafia affiliated with both La Cosa Nostra and the LIttle Odessa groups who connect to the victors of the post-Soviet reorganization money grab, e.g. Agalarovs and others. Many in that orbit (e.g. Eric Prince) want to make that money and live that lifestyle, leveling up from Amway heir lifestyle to Saudi Prince lifestyle.
    Have we simply failed to rein in the wealthy such that their avarice and ambition is no longer satisfied by merely owning all the things?

  5. TomA says:

    Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s 35 year prison sentence as one of his last acts upon leaving office in 2017. Why shouldn’t Snowden be given similar consideration? Both leaked large quantities of sensitive IC information and thereby revealed behind-the-scenes machinations that clearly infringed upon fundamental privacy rights of average US citizens. If not for these whistleblowers, the public would still be largely in the dark about abuses occurring routinely within the myriad tentacles of the various IC divisions of the federal government. Congressional oversight is a joke, so don’t expect any remedy from them. And the press (notwithstanding Marcy’s work) has been more than useless in exposing these abuses. The only thing retarding further encroachment on civil liberties by the IC Goliath is average citizens daring to blow the whistle. I doubt that Trump will actually pardon Snowden and only said what he did for political reasons, but Snowden deserves to be treated fairly and not made a political pawn for puerile advantage.

  6. viget says:

    My question: for *which* crimes will he pardon Snowden?

    Will this be an open-ended Nixon type pardon?

  7. jh says:

    “In fact, Russia has deliberately encouraged Trump to believe Russia and Trump were on the same side, opposed to the US intelligence community, since weeks before he was even inaugurated.”

    I’ve often wondered what specific physiological “tool” the Russians use to manipulate Trump and this seems spot on.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name; your original username was “Jimbo.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

  8. Pragmatic Progressive says:

    Here’s an alternative theory:

    45 isn’t seriously considering a pardon for Snowden, but he is considering one for Assange. After facing no blowback from the Stone pardon he is testing the waters to see what the reaction would be to a pardon for one of the IC’s most reviled enemies. He is fully aware that there are actions that he could take which would result in another event like the impeachment for stalling the delivery of weapons to Ukraine. That’s exactly why he balked when Swan tried to press him on withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in the Axios interview… He knows that’s off limits.

    With floating the idea of pardoning Snowden, he is trying to determine whether he can get away with pardoning Assange. A commutation for Assange would try to tie up a very significant loose thread that undermines the Mueller hoax narrative.

Comments are closed.