After the long-awaited pardon of General Michael Flynn, there is now speculation that Trump may use more of his pardon powers. Support for a pardon of Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is mounting.
Trump is the anti-swamp president. Conventional wisdom suggests that he would be the one most likely to pardon those who have exposed the nefarious inner workings of the swamp.
In the case of Snowden, Trump has already hinted toward a pardon. Snowden blew the whistle in 2013 after learning that the government was collecting phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans. Snowden was charged under the Espionage Act and is currently exiled in Russia.
Public opinion is largely on the side of a pardon for Edward Snowden. Potential roadblocks to a Snowden pardon involve some of Trump’s advisors. Mike Pompeo, William Barr, and some other DC insiders within Team Trump have vocally opposed a pardon.
In a recent interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, Snowden seemed to be cautiously optimistic about being pardoned. Any reason for doubt seemed mostly due to the establishment figures in Trump’s orbit.
Julian Assange also blew the whistle and exposed corruption. In 2010, Wikileaks published intelligence gathered by Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning detailing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange was charged under the Espionage Act. In 2012, Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Leading up to the 2016 election, Wikileaks published damning information about the DNC and Hillary Clinton. These included Clinton’s infamous emails from her private server, as well as proof of collusion between Clinton and the DNC during the primaries, proving that the fix was in against Bernie Sanders.
Assange was arrested in 2019 after allegedly violating the terms of his asylum. He is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. Assange’s case has obvious First Amendment implications. If Wikileaks can’t publish this information, is there such thing as press freedom?
Recently, some prominent figures have urged Trump to pardon both Assange and Snowden. Former Democratic presidential candidate and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Republican congressmen Thomas Massie and Matt Gaetz, and Republican congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene have voiced support of a pardon. This shows that pardoning whistleblowers isn’t really a left-right issue, but rather an establishment-outsider issue.
A pardon for these men would go a long way to restore some trust in government. Trump was elected in large part to root out corruption. If unelected bureaucrats can commit crimes with impunity, there is an inherent problem with the system. It is wrong to punish those acting in the interest of the American people.
Those opposing a pardon typically cite national security concerns. Some contend that Snowden and Assange leaked information that puts Americans in danger and emboldens our enemies. Based on events following the leaks, this argument does not seem to have a lot of validity.
Draining the swamp was never going to be easy. If Trump is truly on his way out, he could send a parting message to the American people and the Deep State. Pardoning both Snowden and Assange would do just that. As long as we have a government that excuses failure and corruption, Americans will wonder whether they truly live in a free country.