‘Evidence I never worked for Russia’: Snowden on NBC report claiming he’s to be ‘gifted’ to Trump
“Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they're next,” Snowden wrote on his Twitter. While it was not immediately clear if he was being sarcastic or seriously concerned, the CIA employee-turned-whistleblower accompanied his tweet with several pre-inauguration retweets from January, when the topic of Snowden becoming Vladimir Putin’s gift to Trump was all the rage in US media.
Speaking to Katie Couric in December, Snowden used a similar argument when asked about his feelings on possible extradition to the US. Admitting that he is concerned for his life and liberty, the whistleblower argued that on the other hand an extradition would be an excellent proof of his independence.
“I’m actually kind of encouraged… It wasn’t so many years ago that people were saying, ‘This guy’s a Russian spy.’ But countries don’t give up their spies,” the renowned whistleblower told Couric, alleging that as a critic of the Russian government policies he might have turned into a burden for Moscow.
The whistleblower went on to suggest that his handover to the US authorities would clear him of any suspicion and serve as a “vindication…of the fact that I have always worked on behalf of the United States.”
In a report, published by NBC News on Friday, an unnamed “US senior official” claimed that the Russian government was actively considering the possibility of handing over Snowden “to curry favor” with President Trump.
The official alleged that he had come to a conclusion of Russia’s alleged intentions upon studying a “series of highly sensitive intelligence reports.”
Another US intelligence source cited in the piece said that the intelligence, allegedly containing thoughts by Russian officials on how to cater to the current administration, have been collected since Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
But Snowden’s lawyer in Russia, Anatoly Kucherena, said he did not believe that Russia was prepared to extradite Snowden anytime soon.
"Russia has no legal basis to hand over Snowden," he told Interfax. “All this talk is just ordinary speculation. Someone is indulging in wishful thinking.”
“Someone in Washington, DC, really wants an innocent man to be sent to the United States,” he added. "Russia does not trade in human beings and human rights, although American intelligence agencies are always trying to drag us into various provocations."
Snowden’s American lawyer, Ben Wizner, appeared to be in the dark about a possible radical change of his client’s status, telling NBC News that nothing would indicate such a move.
"Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern,” Wizner said.
While the latest report has not attracted any attention from Moscow yet, in January the idea of Russia utilizing Snowden as an “inauguration gift” for Trump was slammed by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova as an “ideology of betrayal.”
Back then the suggestion came from the former CIA director Michael Morell, who alleged that by presenting newly-sworn US President with Snowden, Russia not only would court Trump, but also make a “poke…in the eye of [Putin’s adversary] Barack Obama."
Zakharova argued that by proposing to trade Snowden for a potential favor, Morell shows that “it is normal [for CIA] to present people as gifts and give up those who seek protection.”
Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 after his request for asylum was satisfied by the Russian government and subsequently extended for three years. In January, the asylum was successfully renewed for two more years, Zakharova confirmed.
Trump is known for his tough stance on Snowden, whom he has denounced as “a traitor and a disgrace.”
“Make no mistake, he is no hero. In fact he is a coward who should come back & face justice,” Trump wrote in a FB post from 2014.