Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ark.) says President Obama treated "a traitor like a martyr” in commuting former soldier Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence.
“When I was leading soldiers in Afghanistan, Private Manning was undermining us by leaking hundreds of thousands classified documents to WikiLeaks,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
“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. We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr.”
Obama earlier Tuesday commuted Manning’s 35-year prison sentence, the longest punishment ever imposed for a leak conviction.
Manning was convicted in 2013 of leaking classified information about U.S. national security activities that were later disclosed by WikiLeaks.
The former soldier, who has already served seven years of her sentence, will be released on May 17. She was originally set to be released in 2045.
Obama’s decision came in a batch of 209 commutations and 64 pardons announced with four days left in his term.
Manning, who is transgender, has reportedly struggled with mental health issues, purportedly attempting suicide twice last year and spending time in solitary confinement as punishment.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest detailed differences between Manning’s case and that of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden last week.
Snowden, who lives in exile in Russia, is facing espionage charges for leaking classified information on controversial NSA surveillance programs.
“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 told reporters last Friday.
“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.”
Obama’s action may also affect WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose organization published material leaked by both Manning and Snowden.
“If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to U.S. extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of [Department of Justice] case,” WikiLeaks tweeted last Thursday.