Former President Donald Trump was roundly condemned by advocates of free speech and government transparency on Wednesday for failing to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden before leaving office, even as he granted clemency to scores of others, including violent criminals and other convicted felons.
"I am not at all disappointed to go unpardoned by a man who has never known a love he had not paid for."
Trump, who campaigned on a dubious promise to "drain the swamp," issued a final flurry of over 140 pardons or commutations, some of whose beneficiaries included corrupt government and business officials, an Israeli colonel who helped recruit an American to spy against the U.S., and his former senior adviser Steve Bannon—who was arrested last August for allegedly defrauding Trump supporters out of tens of millions of dollars.
Trump's latest wave of pardons and commutations followed earlier clemency granted to several war criminals including mercenaries who massacred 17 Iraqi men, women, and children; Republican insiders; former Trump advisers and confidants who refused to cooperate with government investigations; and lesser-known figures including a Maryland police officer who unleashed a German shepherd on an unhoused man looking for a safe place to sleep.
Final acts of the most corrupt president in history:
Trump pardons war criminals who slaughtered 14 civilians in Iraq... and
pardon’s Steve Bannon, ending Federal prosecution of Trump’s former white supremacist strategist, who defrauded fellow racist MAGA donors of $ Millions. pic.twitter.com/DIin710lVA
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) January 20, 2021
Trump did not extend clemency to either Assange or Snowden, two men whose exposure of U.S. war crimes and other embarrassing—and classified—information infuriated both Republican and Democratic officials. According to CNN:
While he had once entertained the idea, Trump decided against it because he did not want to anger Senate Republicans who will soon determine whether he's convicted during his Senate trial. Multiple GOP lawmakers had sent messages through aides that they felt strongly about not granting clemency to Assange or Snowden.
Snowden—who revealed the global scale of U.S. surveillance and has been exiled in Russia since 2013—said he was not let down by Trump's refusal to pardon him.
"I am not at all disappointed to go unpardoned by a man who has never known a love he had not paid for," Snowden tweeted on Wednesday.
"But what supporters of his remain must never forgive that this simpering creature failed to pardon truth-tellers in far more desperate circumstances," he added, referring to Reality Winner, who in 2018 was sentenced to over five years in prison for leaking an intelligence report detailing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Snowden had been lobbying for her pardon.
I am not at all disappointed to go unpardoned by a man who has never known a love he had not paid for. But what supporters of his remain must never forgive that this simpering creature failed to pardon truth-tellers in far more desperate circumstances:https://t.co/luyYyBViYE
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 20, 2021
In a separate tweet, Snowden declared, "I would rather be without a state than without a voice."
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Supporters of Assange—who earlier this month avoided extradition to the U.S., where he faces up to 170 years in prison if ever convicted of all counts against him—expressed their anger and disappointment in the wake of Trump's decision.
Im not shocked..
Just disappointed that my private prediction was right
Courage is not always contagious
— Christine Assange #FreeAssangeNOW (@MrsC_Assange) January 20, 2021
I find no satisfaction in saying: I told you so. President Trump pardoned the #Blackwater's #WarCriminals,and did NOT pardon a journalist who exposed #WarCrimes and #torture,Julian #Assange, and a whistleblower who exposed State criminality, Edward #Snowden.
This is who they are
— Stefania Maurizi (@SMaurizi) January 20, 2021
Others noted that the proverbial ball is now in President Joe Biden's court, while still other observers expressed doubt there would be pardons for either Snowden or Assange under the new administration:
By not pardoning Julian Assange, Trump gave us one final reminder that he is an enemy of press freedom. Now Biden must decide if he wants to continue Trump’s legacy.
Biden doesn’t even need to pardon: he can just drop appeal of the extradition that Trump’s DOJ already lost. https://t.co/KRTZV1Zy18
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) January 20, 2021
Biden will never pardon Assange and Snowden https://t.co/Ba2TXUd6la
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) January 20, 2021
Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future, summarized the thoughts and feelings of many Assange and Snowden supporters around the world when she tweeted: "No matter how you slice it, this is a bad thing for press freedom and human rights globally."