Reality Winner, the former government contractor who pleaded guilty to leaking classified information to a media outlet, thanked President Donald Trump on Thursday for questioning the fairness of her five-year prison sentence.
Speaking by phone to CBS News from Georgia’s Lincoln County Jail, Winner said she “deeply” regrets her actions and appreciates Trump calling her offense “small potatoes” compared to crimes he alleges former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed during the 2016 campaign.
“For that, I can’t thank him enough,” Winner said.
Winner was referring to a Trump tweet on Aug. 24 in which he made a dig at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for pursing Winner’s case while supposedly letting Clinton off the hook.
“Ex-NSA contractor to spend 63 months in jail over ‘classified’ information,” the president wrote. “Gee, this is ‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard.”
Winner, who sent a classified National Security Agency document to the investigative reporting outlet The Intercept, was the first person to be prosecuted for violating the Espionage Act under the Trump administration. Her 63-month prison sentence is the longest ever handed down in a case involving a federal employee leaking to the news media. (RELATED: NSA Leaker Reality Winner Sentenced To More Than Five Years In Prison)
The document Winner sent to The Intercept outlined attempts by Russian hackers to gain access to state-level voter registration databases as part of an effort to meddle in the presidential election. Winner told CBS she feels vindicated after watching federal prosecutors bring charges against Russian individuals in connection with election meddling.
Although she has previously expressed antipathy to Trump in social media posts, Winner said Thursday that she appreciated the way he drew attention to her case.
“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,” Winner told CBS News. “It really made me laugh. It reminded me of me and my own family.”
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