NSA contractor Reality Winner, who leaked classified US report on Russian hacking, thanks Trump for calling her actions ‘small potatoes’

Reality Winner exits the Augusta Courthouse June 8, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. Winner is an intelligence industry contractor accused of leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents.

caption
Reality Winner exits the Augusta Courthouse June 8, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. Winner is an intelligence industry contractor accused of leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents.
source
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

  • Reality Winner thanked President Donald Trump for calling her leak “small potatoes” after she was sentenced to 63 months in prison for exposing a secret US report on Russian hacking.
  • Winner was arrested last year on suspicion of leaking an intelligence report the same day The Intercept reported on a secret NSA document.
  • Winner, 26, said she “deeply” regrets her actions and said watching the Russia investigation from behind bars is “vindicating but also frustrating.”

The former National Security Agency contractor who was sentenced to more than five years in prison for exposing a secret US report on Russian hacking thanked President Donald Trump for calling her leak “small potatoes.”

Reality Winner, 26, said she “deeply” regrets her actions, speaking to CBS News by phone from Lincoln County Jail in Georgia on Thursday.

Winner was arrested last year on suspicion of leaking an intelligence report the same day The Intercept reported on a secret NSA document.

The classified document published by The Intercept detailed Russian government efforts to hack a Florida-based US voting software supplier, according to The Associated Press. It also detailed accounts of election officials ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Authorities have not described the document leaked by Winner or what news organization received it.

Winner is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since Trump took office in January 2016.

On Friday, Trump called Winner’s leak “‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did.”

“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.

She continued: “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.”

Winner pleaded guilty in June to transmitting national security information by copying the classified report and mailing it to an unidentified news organization.

Her sentence is the longest ever given for a federal crime involving leaks to the news media.

Speaking to CBS News about her sentencing, she said it has been “vindicating but also frustrating” to watch the investigation into the Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election from behind bars.

“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 said.