President Obama’s top spokesman on Wednesday blasted Republicans who criticized his decision to commute the sentence of former Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said GOP lawmakers have put on “an astonishing display of intellectual dishonesty,” citing their support for President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE.
“Those are the same Republicans on Capitol Hill who endorsed a man for president who praised WikiLeaks, defended the integrity of Julian Assange even as he was trashing the patriotic men and women who work in the United States intelligence community,” Earnest told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
“The argument they make against Chelsea Manning,” he added, “requires the American people to willfully ignore those comments from the president-elect, the man they endorsed.”
Obama’s decision to commute the bulk of Manning’s 35-year prison sentence stirred nationwide controversy.
Manning was convicted in 2013 for leaking a trove of classified documents containing sensitive military and diplomatic information, which was later published by WikiLeaks.
Republicans questioned why Obama showed leniency to Manning at a time when his administration is taking a hard line against Russia for its influence campaign in the 2016 presidential election.
The intelligence community has determined that Russia hacked emails from Democratic political groups and individuals delivered them to WikiLeaks in part to boost the prospects of Trump.
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden falters in pledge to strengthen US alliances 20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home MORE (R-Ariz.) called the move “a sad, yet perhaps fitting commentary on President Obama’s failed national security policies.”
McCain condemned Manning for aiding WikiLeaks, “a virulently anti-American organization that was a tool of Russia’s recent interference in our elections."
“I’m tempted to say this is an astonishing display of intellectual dishonesty from congressional Republicans, but it is just par for the course for them,” Earnest said.
The spokesman said Obama decided to commute Manning’s sentence because she expressed remorse for her crimes and the sentence she received was unusually long.
“The president made a decision to commute her sentence because her 35-year sentence was much longer than the sentence that was handed down to people who committed serious crimes that received much less attention,” he said.