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Trump’s team says he’s ‘troubled’ by Chelsea Manning commutation

Hunter Walker
·White House Correspondent
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President-elect Donald Trump is disturbed by President Obama’s decision to commute the prison sentence of convicted leaker Chelsea Manning.

“I think the president-elect is troubled by this action,” Spicer said during a Wednesday news conference at Trump’s presidential transition team headquarters.

“You have an individual who’s convicted of espionage sentenced to 35 years in jail and … to see someone who has given away this country’s secrets and been convicted of it through military court, it’s disappointing,” he continued. “And it sends a very troubling message when it comes to the handling of classified information and … consequences to those who leak information that threatens the safety of our nation.”

Spicer was also asked if Trump wanted to see WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange make good on a promise to allow himself to be extradited to the United States if Manning was given a deal. Last week, the official WikiLeaks Twitter account posted a message saying Assange would “agree to US extradition” if Manning were granted “clemency.” Through his lawyer, Assange subsequently said Obama’s commutation wasn’t enough, according to The Hill.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, I think the focus right now has been on the concern and message that was sent with respect to PFC Manning and … that signal that it sends,” Spicer said of Trump’s thoughts about Assange.

Manning, a United States Army soldier, was convicted in 2013 of leaking 750,000 pages of military documents and videos to WikiLeaks in 2010. WikiLeaks published some of the material, including footage of a U.S. helicopter attacking journalists and civilians in Iraq in 2007. Manning was originally sentenced to 35 years and is now scheduled to be released on May 17 after spending almost seven years in custody.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since the summer of 2012 after seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden on a sexual assault allegation.

WikiLeaks played a major role in last year’s presidential election by publishing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Trump praised Assange’s work during the race and focused much of his campaign messaging on the leaked emails.

Doanld Trump and Chelsea Manning. (Photos: Evan Vucci/AP, U.S. Army via AP)
Donald Trump and Chelsea Manning (Photos: Evan Vucci/AP, U.S. Army via AP)

Earlier this month, officials from the major U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint report saying the emails were leaked by hackers affiliated with the Russian government as part of an effort to help Trump win.

Spicer further suggested it is a “double standard” for Democrats to support Obama’s decision to grant a commutation to Manning after their denunciation of WikiLeaks’ campaign leaks.

“There’s a bit of irony and double standard that goes into this when you realize the outrage that there’s been regarding leaks of information and the use of it, particularly from the left, the Democrats, to see them get up and support the commutation of a sentence from someone who was duly convicted of a very, very serious crime,” Spicer said.

Obama announced 209 commutations and 64 pardons on Tuesday including Manning’s. During his administration, Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 people — the most grants of commutation issued by any president in the country’s history. In a statement released on Tuesday, White House counsel Neil Eggleston said Obama believed those granted commutations deserved a second chance.

“While the mercy the president has shown his 1,597 clemency recipients is remarkable, we must remember that clemency is an extraordinary remedy, granted only after the president has concluded that a particular individual has demonstrated a readiness to make use of his or her second chance,” Eggleston said.

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