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Reality Winner, the former Air Force linguist accused of leaking classified information to the media, said she appreciated President Donald Trump’s recent show of support for her case in an interview with CBS News on Thursday.
Winner, 26, was arrested last year on suspicion of leaking top-secret information about Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Intercept. She has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison for her actions.
Trump tweeted his support last Friday, calling Winner’s crimes “small potatoes” compared to “what Hillary Clinton did.” He also took the opportunity to call out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying the conviction was a “Double Standard.”
Ex-NSA contractor to spend 63 months in jail over “classified” information. Gee, this is “small potatoes” compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
“Even our commander-in-chief, President Trump, has kind of come out and said, ‘Wait a minute, this is really unfair. There’s this double standard here,’” Winner said on CBS’s This Morning.
“For that, I can’t thank him enough, because for 16 months, those words, ‘so unfair,’ were actually not allowed by either myself, or my team or my family to really say out in the public. So I just can’t thank him enough for finally saying what everybody has been thinking for 16 months,” Winner said in a phone interview from Lincoln County Jail, where she is being held.
Winner is the first person to be tried under the Espionage Act under the Trump administration.
“I don’t like to assume anything as to what’s going on in his head, but the ‘small potatoes’ was a breath of fresh air. It really made me laugh. It reminded me of me and my own family. We try to make a joke out of everything. We laugh every single day no matter how bad things get, and he really gave a whole sense of humor to the thing ’cause it is quite bizarre,” she continued.
Last May, Winner leaked details of Russian efforts to hack into local election software just days before the 2016 election. She was working as a contractor for the National Security Agency in Augusta, Georgia, at the time.
When asked about her opinion of the Russia investigation, Winner said, “It’s been a little vindicating, but also kind of frustrating. I know that had I been out and allowed some kind of opinion about it I would be doing my due diligence as a citizen, contacting my senators, but as it is I’ve just been behind bars kind of a spectator, kind of a sounding box.”
Winner’s leak brought national attention to Russia’s efforts to infiltrate American elections, and preceded Robert Mueller’s current investigation into potential collusion between the president and Russia. Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a witch hunt and declared that there was no collusion. He has also declared his intent to punish leakers harshly.
H/T Huffington Post
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.