What if President Obama Promised to Pardon Edward Snowden?
A report this week by the Financial Times has been making its rounds across different media sectors as everyone is weighing in on the legal status of Edward Snowden. Some are saying he’s a criminal who must be prosecuted and put in jail for life. Others are calling him a hero who deserves to come back to America through a plea bargain with President Obama’s Justice Department.
Neither scenario works for Snowden, now stuck in Moscow. He has claimed he would return to face trial as a form of public discourse, but that isn’t possible based upon the status of his crimes. If he returns today, there would be absolutely nothing public about his trial. As all of the different scenarios get discussed, there’s one that I haven’t seen proposed: a promise of a pardon by President Obama.
Without coming out directly and saying it, some of the President’s actions have indicated indirect support for the things that Snowden has done. He has participated in removing or limiting some of the mechanisms that allowed the infringements that Snowden revealed. It would be very unlikely that the President would come out and give kudos directly to Snowden, but it would go a long way towards building a legacy of transparency and patriotism for the President if he could work out a deal that brought Snowden home.
In essence, the President would have to promise a pardon. He can’t pardon him now since Snowden hasn’t been prosecuted yet, but he could promise to pardon him once he was prosecuted. The opposition to this will attack the notion. There’s a chance for delays imposed to keep the trial going beyond the President’s final term, leaving Snowden’s fate in the hands of the next President and that would likely not end well for him unless Rand Paul or Hillary Clinton wins.
A trial could be expedited at any point if attempts are made to stall the proceedings if Snowden were to change to a guilty plea.
If he could pull it off, it would be a defining moment for a President who has not had very many positive defining moments. As it stands, his greatest legacy is Obamacare and the future of that piece of legislation is in question. If he can’t strike a deal with Iran and if Obamacare falls, there’s really very little left. Snowden’s pardon could be a message that defines what Obama did for the country if he chooses to take that road.