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President Obama's 11th-hour decision to cut short former Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning's prison sentence is drawing backlash from a growing number of Senate Democrats.
The White House announced this week that the president had commuted the prison sentence. Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in 2013 for leaking classified information about U.S. national security activities to WikiLeaks, will now be released in May.
A small, but growing, number of Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from the decision, which they warn could have negative consequences for national security.
Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Fill the Eastern District of Virginia GOP tries to take filibuster pressure off Manchin, Sinema MORE (D-Va.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the decision sends the "wrong signal."
"[It's] something I wouldn't have done," he told Fox News.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) told The Hill that he was "disappointed" in the decision, while Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Climate activists target Manchin Hoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat MORE (D-W.Va) separately called the president's decision "dead wrong."
"I think he's dead wrong. Absolutely dead wrong," he told "Meet the Press Daily." "This is treason, espionage at the highest level."
Republicans, including Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump Heritage Foundation names new president Fewer than 4 in 10 say US is on right track: poll MORE, have blasted Obama, accusing the outgoing president of helping release a "traitor."
But the White House defended the president's decision, with press secretary Josh Earnest saying Republicans are showing "intellectual dishonesty" if they criticize Obama while supporting President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE, whose presidential campaign benefited from WikiLeaks' publication of hacked emails from Democratic organizations and individuals.
Obama separately said Wednesday that "justice was served" by the commutation.
"It has been my view ... that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received and that she had served a significant amount of time," Obama said during a press conference.
Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress needs to step up on crypto, or Biden might crush it Democrats face growing storm over IRS reporting provision Best shot at narrowing racial homeownership gap at risk, progressives say MORE (D-Ore.) appeared to echo Obama's concerns, telling reporters he was concerned a "double standard" was being set for whistleblowers.
"Certainly when you served seven years in prison and you've apologized, you indicate what ... you did was wrong," he said.
Wyden contrasted Manning's sentence to former CIA Director David Petraeus, who received two years of probation and a fine after he pleasded guilty to removing and mishandling classified information, which he shared with his biographer Paula Brodwell, with whom he was having an affair.
Manning's 35-year sentence marked the longest ever handed down for a leaking conviction.
Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinJane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council on Mental Wellbeing — Merck asks FDA to authorize five-day COVID-19 treatment Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE (D-Calif.), the former ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, also defended the president's decision, while stressing that "nobody should ever believe" that Manning's actions weren't "serious."
"Seven years is a long time and she did serve that time," she told reporters.