She wanted to “burn the White House down” and leaked classified information to an inept reporter by hiding it in her pantyhose in an attempt to punish Donald Trump. Instead, Reality Winner will spend 63 months in the Big House after taking a plea deal in Trump’s efforts to crack down on leakers. This morning, the tawdry story of an NSA employee and her not-so-secret affinity for the Iranian regime came to an end with a whimper instead of a bang:
Reality L. Winner, a former Air Force linguist who was the first person prosecuted by the Trump administration on charges of leaking classified information, pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of an agreement with prosecutors that calls for a sentence of 63 months in prison.
Ms. Winner, who entered her plea in Federal District Court in Augusta, Ga., was arrested last June and accused of sharing a classified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election with the news media.
Ms. Winner, who is now 26, has been jailed since her arrest. Her decision to plead guilty to one felony count allows the government both to avoid a complex trial that had been scheduled for October and to notch a victory in the Trump administration’s aggressive pursuit of leakers.
“All of my actions I did willfully, meaning I did so of my own free will,” Ms. Winner said in court on Tuesday.
Not without some encouragement from — and incompetence by — a reporter at The Intercept. Rather than re-render the documents, the outlet reproduced them instead, making it easy for investigators to conclude that Winner was the leaker. Not that she was exactly a model of subtlety either; while working with a Top Secret clearance, she was cheering on the mullahs of Iran and writing down her plans to burn down the White House and join the Taliban in Afghanistan. Winner then admitted to the crime in recorded jailhouse conversations with her mother while telling her sister that she’d get bail because, er …
Prosecutors said a phone call to her sister expressed Winner’s confidence in how to play the court during her bond hearing.
“I’m pretty, white and cute,” she allegedly told her sister. Prosecutors said Winner told her sister she would braid her hair and cry in court.
Prosecutors said she also instructed family members to transfer $30,000 into her mother’s account so she’d appear poor enough for a court-appointed attorney.
A criminal mastermind she ain’t.
Winner didn’t get a very lenient deal, either. A single count under 18 USC 793 carries a potential ten-year prison sentence. The deal Winner accepted is just over half of that in prison, followed by three years of probation. She might not have gotten much more than that had she fought the charges. The facts of the case, and her behavior before and after the leak, made it beneficial for her to get out from under this as quickly and as quietly as possible.
Her mother worries that her reputation will be ruined:
“She said she wants the world to know that she does love her country, and she is a patriot,” she said. “I don’t want her to go down in history as a traitor to her country.”
Winner must be one of those patriots that support America’s enemies on the battlefield and plan to burn down government buildings out of luuuuuurve. Not even Chelsea Manning went that far, and he went far enough into moral treason territory to qualify. To the extent history remembers Winner at all, the best outcome for which she can hope is that she’ll be considered a narcissistic idiot that lacked the capacity for real treason. Under the circumstances, that seems pretty generous.