President Barack Obama defended his decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s remaining prison sentence during his final press conference from the White House on Wednesday.
Manning, a transgender woman, was convicted in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act after she leaked documents detailing US diplomatic and military activities to WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning had been serving as an army intelligence officer in Iraq at the time. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but is due to be released in May.
“Let’s be clear: Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence,” Obama told reporters, noting that Manning’s sentence had been “disproportionate” to what other leakers had received.
Top Republicans blasted Obama’s decision to commute Mannings sentence on Tuesday, however.
“President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.
Obama, for his part, threw cold water on the notion that leaking classified information would go “unpunished” by the federal government, given that Manning went to trial and “took responsibility for her crime.”
“She served a significant amount of time, that it made sense to commute,” Obama said. “I feel very comfortable that justice has been served.”
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