The exact nature of U.S.–Russia relations is hard to figure at the moment. Donald Trump’s affectionate Russia stance has, quite simply, never been normal. And in his surreal administration, a bizarre pro-Russia cabal has nestled itself in the West Wing. Both Trump and his cabal hold views about the U.S.’s longtime adversary that are so divergent from contemporary mainstream American beliefs, as well as historical ones, it’s impossible not to be deeply suspicious about their motives. If there weren’t enough moving parts to the Trump administration’s opaque relationship with the Kremlin, on Friday, the complicated internal politics of Edward Snowden were thrown into the mix.
NBC News reports that Russia is considering handing over the NSA leaker—who has resided in the country since fleeing in 2013—as a “gift” to Trump in an effort to “curry favor” with the White House. A Putin spokesman denied the Snowden reports. NBC News’ sources note that handing over Snowden is one of multiple options in an effort to butter up the White House; they also noted that the Russian chatter on the Snowden handover was intercepted after the inauguration three weeks ago.
Snowden’s lawyers downplayed the possibility of extradition to the U.S., where Snowden faces federal charges that carry a minimum of 30 years in prison. Snowden, who has a residency permit in Russia until 2020, interpreted the reports as proof he has not cooperated with Russian intelligence agencies.