In an interview with MSNBC, Attorney General Eric Holder ruled out what supporters of Edward Snowden have demanded: Were the whistle-blower to return to the U.S. from hiding in Russia, he would not be granted clemency.
However, Holder suggested that a possible plea deal could be negotiated. "We've always indicated that the notion of clemency isn't something that we were willing to consider. Instead, were he coming back to the U.S. to enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. ”
Crucially, this should not be read as a hint toward leniency for Snowden. Indeed, Chelsea Manning put forward a plea -- admitting to handing over a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks -- to face lesser charges. The whistle-blower received a 35-year sentence in a military prison.
Indicating continued anger at Snowden, Holder declined to call the fugitive a whistle-blower: "I prefer the term defendant. That's the most apt title," he said.