February 10, 21:30 EST
Russia is considering handing over former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as “a gift” to President Trump, according to a new report.
Russia sending Snowden back to the U.S. is one of several options Moscow is considering to “curry favor” with Trump, NBC News reported Friday, citing a senior U.S. official who had analyzed intelligence reports on Russia.
NBC noted a second intelligence community source affirmed the intelligence, adding it had been gathered since Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Ben Wizner, who is Snowden’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, said Friday he is unaware of plans to return his client home.
“Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern,” he said.
Snowden is facing espionage charges for leaking classified information in the U.S.
NBC added the White House declined to comment about Snowden’s case, while Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, called the report “nonsense.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) told NBC it would welcome Snowden’s return, which would find him facing federal charges carrying a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Snowden himself took the news as evidence that he has not been working with the Russians.
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
Snowden was working in a NSA facility in Hawaii when he began stealing top-secret U.S. intelligence documents in 2013 and leaking them to the media.
The leaks exposed details of America’s controversial domestic surveillance programs, leading Snowden to flee the U.S. and reside in Russia ever since.
Snowden said in December he is “not worried” about his future under Trump’s administration, adding he is “comfortable with the decisions” he made.
Trump pledged in July he would deal with Snowden “harshly,” adding he is “a total traitor” and suggested he deserves to be executed.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo has also said “a death sentence” would be appropriate for Snowden's actions.
This story was originally published onThe Hill.