U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a “gift” to President Donald Trump — who has called the NSA leaker a “spy” and a “traitor” who deserves to be executed.
That’s according to a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations and who says a Snowden handover is one of various ploys to “curry favor” with Trump.
A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration.
Former national security adviser Juan Zarate urged the Trump administration to be cautious in accepting any Snowden offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“For Russia, this would be a win-win. They’ve already extracted what they needed from Edward Snowden in terms of information and they’ve certainly used him to beat the United States over the head in terms of its surveillance and cyber activity,” Zarate said.
The White House had no comment, but the Justice Department told news outlets it would welcome the return of Snowden, who currently faces federal charges that carry a minimum of 30 years in prison. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said talk about returning Snowden is “nonsense.”