NSA Leaker Faces Sentencing as Russia Probe Barrels On

AUGUSTA, Ga. (CN) — In a week dominated by the convictions of President Donald Trump’s personal fixer and campaign manager, former NSA contractor Reality Winner will learn her fate Thursday morning for leaking top-secret records on Russia’s efforts to get Trump elected president.

Photo via standwithreality.org

The first government contractor to be criminally charged under the Trump administration, 26-year-old Winner pleaded guilty in June to a single count of transmitting national-security information.

Winner’s plea deal called for a prison term of 63 months, but attorneys for the 26-year-old emphasized in a memorandum last week that the stipulated sentence was longer than any the government had ever contemplated for “arguably worse conduct.” (Emphasis in original.)

Represented by the Atlanta firm Baker Donelson, Texas-born Winner has already served a year behind bars in connection to her May 2017 leak of a National Security Agency report on Russia’s election meddling.

Despite her status as a first-time offender, Chief U.S. District Judge Randal Hall labeled Winner a flight risk and opted to hold her without bail.

In their sentencing brief, the defense team offered some context for why Winner abused her security clearance to leak to The Intercept. They said Winner was simultaneously mourning the death of her father in December 2016, had ended her six-year military career and “was swept up by the political fervor surrounding the 2016 presidential election.”

Reality Winner leaves the U.S. District Courthouse in Augusta, Ga., following a June 8, 2017, bond hearing. (Photo by Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

Winner had trained as a cryptologist and linguist in the U.S. Air Force before taking a job early last year at Pluribus International, assigned to an NSA facility in Augusta, Georgia.

Peter Maass of The Intercept described Winner’s prosecution back in June as “unfair and unprecedented,” contrasting the leaker’s case against that of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

“While Manafort is suspected of aiding the Russian effort, Winner is accused of warning Americans about it,” Maass wrote.

President Trump praised Manafort’s bravery meanwhile after news of the former lobbyist’s conviction on felony charges came down Tuesday.

The Department of Justice has not yet issued a statement on Winner’s sentencing.

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