The White House said Wednesday that President Obama granted clemency for transgender military secrets leaker Chelsea Manning “in pursuit of justice,” and accused congressional Republicans of hypocrisy for criticizing the commutation.
“Chelsea Manning was convicted of serious crimes,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “She also took responsibility for those crimes. She expressed remorse for those crimes.”
He said Manning’s 35-year prison term was “much longer than the sentence that was handed down to people who committed similar crimes that got much less attention.”
Mr. Obama ordered Manning to be released from prison on May 17. She was due to be kept behind bars until 2045.
The commutation for Manning was among more than 200 grants of clemency that Mr. Obama issued on Tuesday, three days before he leaves office.
Republican leaders in Congress blasted Mr. Obama’s commutation for Manning, saying that his action will encourage future leakers of classified national security information. The thousands of documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as diplomatic cables, were published by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after Manning stole them.
Mr. Earnest, speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, said Mr. Obama commuted the prison sentence of Manning “in pursuit of justice.” Advocates said the transgender former Army analyst being held in a male federal prison has tried to commit suicide twice.
He blasted GOP lawmakers for criticizing Mr. Obama, saying they also supported President-elect Donald Trump and his “trashing” of patriotic U.S. intelligence agents.
“Those are the same Republicans on Capitol Hill who endorsed a man for president who praised Wikileaks and defended the integrity of Julian Assange, even as he was trashing the patriotic men and women who work in the United States intelligence community,” Mr. Earnest said.