Vice President-elect Mike Pence called President Barack Obama's decision to commute the sentence Chelsea Manning a mistake, asserting the former Army intelligence analyst betrayed the U.S. by leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.
On Jan. 18, Pence stated that he disagreed with Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence. Manning is now slated to be released on May 17, having been incarcerated at the Kansas-based military prison Fort Leavenworth for six years of a 35-year sentence.
“To commute Private Manning’s sentence was mistake,” Pence told Fox News. “Private Manning is a traitor and should not have been turned into a martyr, as Senator Cotton said.”
On Jan. 17, the day that Obama announced his decision, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas released a statement blasting the commutation.
“When I was leading soldiers in Afghanistan, Private Manning was undermining us by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks,” Cotton said, according to The Hill.
“I don’t understand why the president would feel special compassion for someone who endangered the lives of our troops, diplomats, intelligence officers, and allies,” Cotton added. “We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr.”
Pence concluded that Manning did not deserve clemency because her actions had put Americans at risk.
“Private Manning’s actions compromised our national security, endangered American personnel downrange, compromised individuals in Afghanistan who were cooperation with our forces by leaking 750,000 documents to WikiLeaks.”
Manning’s 35-year sentence was the longest punishment levied against someone convicted of leaking classified information. Before Obama’s commutation, Manning was set to remain at Fort Leavenworth until 2045. The former soldier had attempted suicide twice in 2016.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest, when asked by reporters why Obama would commute Manning’s sentence but not offer former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden a pardon, asserted that it was because Manning had faced the consequences of her actions.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal process ... and she acknowledged her wrongdoing,” Earnest said.
On Jan. 18, Obama responded to criticism over his decision to commute Manning’s sentence.
“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence,” Obama said during his final press conference as commander in chief, NBC News reports. “I feel very comfortable that justice has been served.”