Reality Winner, the former National Security Agency contractor facing a five-year prison sentence for leaking a classified document to the media, is grateful that President Donald Trump called her punishment a “double standard.”
In her first TV interview from jail, Winner told “CBS This Morning” on Thursday that she was heartened by Trump’s tweet last Friday, one day after her sentencing. The president claimed that Winner’s action was ”‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did!”
“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.
“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.”
Trump has also regularly criticized people who have leaked information, particularly from his own White House.
Winner said she was not sure if the president’s tweet amounted to a show of support for her, but thought it “was a breath of fresh air. It really made me laugh,” she said.
“He really gave a whole sense of humor to the thing because it really is quite bizarre.”
Last year, the former Air Force linguist sent an NSA memo to The Intercept, containing classified information that demonstrated Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Asked Thursday, Winner said that she “deeply” regrets leaking the document.
Winner became the first person to be convicted during Trump’s presidency for leaking government documents to the media.
Media advocacy groups have condemned her sentence, which Justice Department prosecutors say is the longest ever for a federal crime involving leaks to the media.
“Reality Winner’s long prison sentence is proof that the U.S. government cares more about hiding information from the public than it does about its citizens’ rights to the First Amendment,” Margaux Ewen, the North America bureau director of Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement.
“The sentencing of Reality Winner to serve 63 months in prison has troubling ramifications for national security whistleblowers and the public’s access to information,” PEN America said in a statement.