One of the President’s greatest powers is that of pardons and commutations.
In his final days in office, Obama is exercising that power like never before.
And it’s leading to some head-scratching decisions.
With just days left in office, Obama commuted the sentence of Bradley Manning.
Manning was convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking 700,000 classified and secret documents to WikiLeaks.
Included in the dump were videos of U.S. airstrikes and hundreds of thousands of documents and cables about the war in Iraq.
When Manning stood trial, many argued his leak had put lives at risk.
He was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
During his time in prison, he became a transsexual and “transitioned” into being a woman.
Obama commuted his sentence after he served just seven years.
Many were outraged at the decision, believing Bradley Manning was a traitor.
No American who's ever taken a secrecy oath can look kindly on a narcissist traitor like Manning or Obama's inexplicable coddling of that.
— John Schindler (@20committee) January 18, 2017
Other critics note the irony that the Obama administration has just spent the last two months arguing that WikiLeaks is a front organization for the Russian government to destabilize Western democracies, and had colluded with Russian-backed hackers to cost Hillary Clinton the election.
If that is the case – and since the Obama administration has been arguing for an increasingly hawkish response towards Russia – then why would Obama reward a Kremlin-backed organization’s leaker?
Still, others were outraged Manning was given a commutation while Obama still refuses to pardon Edward Snowden.
Snowden was the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed Obama’s illegal scheme to spy on every American by intercepting all phone and electronic communications.
Snowden has been living in Russia ever since 2013.
And the Obama administration uses this as evidence Snowden was working with our enemies to harm American interests.
But Snowden argues it was the government who stranded him in Russia to make him look like a traitor.
Snowden pointed out he had a flight booked out of Moscow when the U.S. government revoked his passport, thereby leaving him unable to leave Moscow.
Millions of Americans view Snowden as a hero who exposed illegal U.S. government conduct.
Obama’s Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about why Manning’s sentence was commuted and Snowden was left in legal limbo.
He responded that Manning had expressed remorse for his crime and went through the military justice process, whereas Snowden fled to an “adversary”.
“White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted recently the “stark differences” between Manning and Snowden, whose supporters who have been pushing for clemency.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
“So I think the situation of these two individuals is quite different. I can’t speculate at this point about to what degree that will have an impact on the President’s consideration of clemency requests. But I know that there’s a temptation because the crimes were relatively similar to lump the two cases together. But there are some important differences, including the scale of the crimes that were committed and the consequences of their crimes.”
Earnest said the “disclosures by Edward Snowden were far more serious and far more dangerous” than those of Manning.”
When Earnest said Snowden’s crimes were more serious, many took that to mean it was because Snowden had exposed Obama’s illegal activity, whereas Manning leaked documents which damaged the Bush administration since they pertained to the Iraq War.
Others continued to question that if Russia was in fact behind WikiLeaks, and if they truly are an adversary, why would Obama commute Manning’s sentence?
Some argued it was because Bradley Manning now claims he is a woman and has become a transsexual.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny speculated that was exactly the reason why.
“Following the news, CNN gathered a panel to discuss and senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny wondered if Manning’s status as a transsexual woman who is in the middle of transitioning had an impact on Obama’s decision.
“I think the question this president — the White House — will have to answer here, and I think it’s an important one,” Zeleny stated. “How much was the personal story of Chelsea Manning involved in this?”
Explaining that there was outcry from the left on her situation and that Manning was having a tough time in prison, Zeleny asked if the “outcome would be the same” if that wasn’t in play.
“Without that, it’s hard to imagine, I think, this president would have done that, he added.”