During his first days as president, Barack Obama pledged to protect government whistleblowers. In fact, Change.org even highlighted this stance saying, “Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.”
Oddly, or rather conveniently enough, this section of the webpage disappeared just days after the first round of Edward Snowden leaks.
President-elect Donald Trump has made his opinion on whistleblowers painfully clear in comments made on the campaign trail, even going so far as to suggest we “kill the traitor,” in reference to whistleblower Edward Snowden.
However, while calling for Snowden’s execution fits in with Trump’s caricature of a “right wing extremist,” if there is one thing we know for sure about Trump it’s that he often makes radical statements and then quickly changes his stance if he finds his popularity slipping. We have already seen this with his reversal on pretty much every issue, except of course his position on building a wall and making Mexico pay for it, which has stayed consistent throughout this entire 2016 circus.
Trump is not an ideologue, which means there may be a chance he can be influenced for good — if it will increase his favorability as president.
As a man who won the presidency by resonating with the anti-establishment and populist sentiment spreading throughout the country, it would be a foolish move for President Trump to turn his back on the very people who elected him into office.
For many Trump supporters — as well as the rest of the country — the surveillance state is one of the largest abominations to individual liberty seen in our lifetime, and that includes the passage of the Patriot Act and all the regulatory agencies that were conceived in the wake of 9/11. Without a firm anti-establishment stance against “big brother,” draining the swamp is not only unlikely, it is simply impossible.
There is, of course, also the issue of Julian Assange. It was not so long ago when Republicans were calling for the execution of Private Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
However, since Wikileaks committed itself to a campaign exposing Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the election, these same Republicans now view Assange as a hero.
Trump has also praised Assange, which seems appropriate since it is clear he benefited from Hillary’s decreasing poll numbers. In fact, it is not entirely unreasonable to attribute at least a portion of Trump’s election night victory to the dozens of “Podesta Email” leaks that were released over the last several weeks.
Now that Trump has publicly called Assange a hero for essentially doing the same thing Snowden did — and won the presidency as a result of the leaks — is it possible that President Trump would consider pardoning Edward Snowden?
Again, at this point no one knows how this next administration will function. While names like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie do not do much to lessen the fear of an overreaching foreign policy, a tyrannical police state, and typical government cronyism, pardoning Edward Snowden would be the ultimate stand against the establishment.
If President Trump holds true to his promise of restoring peaceful relations with Russia, where Edward Snowden has taken asylum for the past three and a half years, Snowden could very well become a bargaining chip. Of course, this is all speculation at the moment, but as non-interventionists seeking peace, we can only hope that improved relations with Russia do not come at the cost of the most heroic whistleblower of our time.
Trump’s legacy as president is a blank slate, it could go either way. If he wants to keep his current base of support and prove his skeptics wrong, he would be wise to pardon Edward Snowden, and dish out the first real blow to the establishment during his first days in office.