WikiLeaks came to the defense of the website’s most well-known source Thursday after President Trump lashed out at convicted Army leaker Pvt. Chelsea Manning for reflecting on the Obama administration’s shortcomings in a new op-ed published as she prepares to leave prison.
Manning, 29, became the target of one of Mr. Trump’s Twitter tirades early Thursday after The Guardian newspaper published an editorial written by the soon-to-be-released WikiLeaks collaborator critical of former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
“The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader,” Manning wrote, adding that Mr. Obama’s successor must be a person “who is unafraid to be criticized” in spite of having their every move evaluated without end.
“Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!” Mr. Trump tweeted in response to the column.
“Trump is wrong,” WikiLeaks fired back from its own Twitter account afterward. “Manning was found innocent of ‘aiding the enemy’ & Pentagon admitted under oath no-one harmed.”
Indeed, Manning was convicted in 2013 of charges including espionage and theft in connection with providing WikiLeaks with a trove of state secrets obtained during her deployment as an intelligence analyst in the Iraq War. She was acquitted of “aiding the enemy,” however, after military prosecutors failed to show during her court-martial that America’s adversaries benefited from the soldier’s disclosures.
And while Manning did use the word “weak” once in her assessment of the Obama administration, it wasn’t exactly a personal critique. Instead, rather, she wrote that Mr. Obama’s opponents “would ceaselessly criticize him for being too weak, or too soft or too sympathetic” on matters of foreign policy and national security.
As noted by WikiLeaks, in fact, Mr. Trump has used identical language himself in the past with respect to describing his predecessor and countless other critics.
“Trump denounces Manning for agreeing with him,” WikiLeaks said in a separate tweet Thursday accompanied by a screenshot of the president accusing Mr. Obama last year of demonstrating “weak leadership.”
A review of Mr. Trump’s Twitter activity reveals the president has previously used the word “weak” not only to repeatedly describe Mr. Obama, but also former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Republican House Leader Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, CNN host Rick Wilson, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the department store chain Macy’s, the ending of the 2015 movie “Unbroken” and entrepreneur Mark Cuban, in addition to many of his former 2016 GOP rivals for the presidency.
Mr. Obama announced days before leaving office this month that he has agreed to commute the remainder of Manning’s 35-year prison sentence, paving the way for the soldier to be released this May after roughly seven years in military prison.
Prior to her arrest in 2010, Manning admittedly provided WikiLeaks with a trove of documents including diplomatic cables and war logs taken from State Department and military computer systems, respectively.
Mr. Trump’s reaction to Manning’s op-ed on Thursday signaled the first time he’s publicly discussed the Army leaker since taking office notwithstanding the president’s frequent praising of WikiLeaks, which infamously published hacked emails obtained from Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the run-up to last year’s White House race.
“I love WikiLeaks!” Mr. Trump pronounced at a pre-election event in Pennsylvania last year.
In light of Mr. Trump refusing to release his tax records upon taking office, however, his personal opinion regarding WikiLeaks may very well change soon given the website’s latest efforts: On Sunday, WikiLeaks issued a request for anyone with access to the president’s financial documents to securely upload them to its website.
“Trump’s breach of promise over the release of his tax returns is even more gratuitous than Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs transcripts,” WikiLeaks tweeted.