As President Donald Trump prepares to meet Vladimir Putin on Monday, the legislators of both parties want the Russian President to bring 12 hackers to justice, who have been accused of sabotaging the 2016 elections. This is unlikely, especially as Trump does not usually approve of the talk of voting among Russian voters.
But Putin also hosts another hacker wanted by the US – one whose Trump Trump has never questioned: Edward Snowden.
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As a candidate, Trump "guarantee [d]"He would bring home the notorious whistleblower of the National Security Agency. As president, however, he showed no desire to confront Putin over Snowden.
Why not? Experts and former US officials say that the passions cooled off over the refugee who shook the secret services five years ago last month. Recent hacker scandals have overshadowed his actions. And Trump himself has become a tough critic of US surveillance programs, which he claims to be without evidence, which the Obama administration has misused against him.
However, some experts believe that the transfer of Snowden would be an easy way for Putin to do Trump a favor – to give the President a victory that would particularly please the intelligence service and the National Security Guard. Before Trump was sworn in January 2017, former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell wrote the delivery of Snowden would be "the perfect housewarming gift" from Putin to Trump.
"If Trump wants this as a victory, then I do not see why Putin would not give it to him," said Geoffrey Stone, a professor from the University of Chicago who served in a foreign intelligence monitoring committee created by President Barack Obama after Snowden's leaks , "If Putin Trump wants to do a favor or make Trump look good, and if Trump wants that, it would be an easy task for Putin," Stone said.
"You can almost see the image of Snowden being handcuffed into Air Force One," he added.
Snowden took refuge in Moscow in mid-2013 after publicly releasing secret NSA files he had stolen while he was a private entrepreneur. He has described himself as a whistleblower who has uncovered surveillance violations, but many current and former US officials regard him as a traitor or worse.
Trump is among them: "Snowden is a spy who has done great damage to the US. A spy in the old days, when our country was respected and strong, would be executed, "he said explained on Twitter in April 2014.
As a candidate for 2016, Trump said he could bring Snowden back from the Russians, who granted him political asylum. Putin pledged to befriend Putin and improve relations between the US and Russia, insisting that the Russian leader – who, he said, had no respect for Obama – would "never" keep someone like Snowden, if Trump President would be.
"Look … when I'm president, Putin tells Snowden, 'Hey, boom, you're gone. 'I guarantee you that,' said Trump in July 2015.
Since then Snowden seems to have fallen off Trump's to-do list. And some believe the Russian president likes to take him under his wing, even at a time when he wants to do business with Trump.
"I do not think it's high on Trump's agenda, and I actually think Putin has little interest in delivering it," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch and a leading defender of Snowden's "heroic" leaks ,
Snowden stays hidden in Russia with his partner Lindsay Mills. Just last month, however, Mills shared a rarity photo of Snowden on her Instagram account, the seemingly restaurant overlooking the Moscow skyline.
Snowden himself has the option of delivery in May in a podcast interview with The Intercept.
"Donald Trump will come to Russia, you know, whenever he can," Snowden told journalist Mehdi Hasan before announcing the meeting in Helsinki.
"It seems clear that nobody in this world loves more than the Russian president. Will he try to reach an agreement? Maybe, "he added. "Can I do something about it? No."
Trump is not the only top US official to demand Snowden's return and execution. As a member of Congress in 2016, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Trump's opinion. "He should be brought back from Russia and treated properly, and I think the right outcome would be that he would get a death sentence," Pompeo told C-SPAN in February of the same year.
Snowden ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner declined to comment on this article.
After starting its leaks in June 2013, Snowden ordered months of headline news. But although top lawmakers demanded the extradition of 25 Russians, who are now being charged by the Justice Department for the 2016 election intervention, Snowden remained unmentioned.
"These people must be brought to the United States for trial, and you should demand that Mr. Putin hand them over," wrote eight Democratic Party senators, including the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on a Saturday Letter to Trump, who did not mention the former NSA contractor.
If Putin sent Snowden back to the United States, he would wait for a trial in a jail cell. The espionage charges against him carry decades of jail time and forbid him to use a whistleblower defense in the process. Former US Attorney General Eric Holder told Russia in 2013 that the US would not apply for the death penalty for Snowden in order to prevent Russia from giving political asylum to the former contractor. Holder informed Russia that the allegations made against Snowden would not be punished by death and that the government would not prosecute the death penalty, even if he were charged with further crimes involving a death sentence. But it's not clear if Trump's Justice Department would agree.
Even some of Snowden's harshest critics point out that Helsinki is not the place to discuss its fate, especially when Trump and Putin grapple with important political issues, such as the Middle East.
"When it comes to finding a solution for Syria, he should not get up. If it's more of a ceremonial gathering, then it would be appropriate for the issue to be on the agenda, "said Republican Mike Rogers, who served as chairman of the House's intelligence committee at the time Snowden was unveiled.
Rogers has denounced Snowden as a traitor who endangers American life – even once, without concrete evidence that he should receive murder charges. But he suggested that Moscow itself, where some believe that Snowden's freedom is limited, is a kind of prison for him.
"He is absolutely miserable in a very controlled environment in Russia. May be the best punishment, "said Rogers POLITICO in an e-mail.
Matthew Waxman, director of the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School and former chief executive officer of George W. Bush, said he did not expect Snowden to come to the summit on Monday.
But that was impossible, he added, especially given the Trumpian spectacle Snowden's return would bring.
"Trump is unpredictable and sometimes seems more interested in presenting deals than substance," he said.
Waxman added that Putin "carefully studied Trump's psychology" and could offer Snowden if he thought it would help him win other agreements from his American counterpart.
At the time of the leak, Trump said it would be "pathetic" if the United States needed years to bring Snowden back to American soil. In other interviews, Trump blamed the slow delivery on Obama's tense relationship with Putin.
"He hates Obama. He does not respect Obama. Obama does not like him either. But he has no respect for Obama. Hatred of Obama, "said Trump.
But where Putin is now sitting, Snowden could be more useful in Russia than outside. Some critics say Snowden has been remarkably quiet about Russia's authoritarian practices, even scourging the Trump government, US intelligence agencies, and many American technology companies on Twitter account with 3.8 million followers.
"Snowden is a rare case of someone looking for Russia instead of fleeing Putin's autocratic rule," said Roth. "This is a way to make his own autocratic rule look less bad. … He is much more valuable from Putin's point of view when he emphasizes the mass invasion of the US government into privacy. "
Snowden insists that he is not blind to abuse in Russia for his own safety. When asked by The Intercept about the possibility of his extradition, he said:[W] Should I sell my principles to make it less likely? No. "And he did it recently criticize "Ballot filling" in Russia's presidential elections in March, which put Putin on hold for another six years and sparked new speculation that any alliance he could have with Putin's government broke.
"Demand justice; demand laws and courts that are important. Take your future back, "Snowden added.
Roth doubted that conservative Republicans would care more about Snowden and reduce Trump's interest in him.
"I have no doubt Trump would like to get Snowden," Roth said. "I'm not sure if that's a problem playing with his base. … I do not see that he will really do anything about this. "
One reason that Putin would send Snowden back to the US is Russia last year, extending his asylum until 2020. Russian officials care for You can not remove him against his will.
"President Putin raised the issue a few years ago," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last month. "He said this is for Edward Snowden to decide."
Lavrov added that Putin "never" discussed Snowden with the Trump administration.
"We respect his rights as an individual," Lavrov said. "I do not know why people would ask that specific question about the summit. Edward Snowden is the master of his own destiny. "