President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Prison Sentence

Obama has commuted the majority of Manning's sentence.

Chelsea Manning

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Chelsea Manning

President Barack Obama has commuted the majority of Chelsea Manning's sentence, the White House announced Tuesday. The New York Timesreports that Manning, initially set to serve 35 years for providing Wikileaks with sensitive documents, will now be released May 17.

Manning, in her previous commutation application, said she never thought she would be the recipient of such an "extreme" sentencing. "I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public," Manning wrote. "I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong."

FACT: In commuting the sentences of 209 people today, @POTUS has now granted more commutations than any president in U.S. history.

— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) January 17, 2017

Manning's lawyer, Nancy Hollander, spoke with the Guardian Tuesday before telling her client the good news. "Oh my god!" Hollander said after speaking with White House officials. "I cannot believe it. In 120 days she will be free and it will all be over. It's incredible." 

During a press briefing last week, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to a question on Manning's then-rumored commutation by highlighting what he felt was the "pretty stark difference" between the cases of Manning and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. "I know that there’s a temptation because the crimes were relatively similar to lump the two cases together," Earnest said. "But there are some important differences, including the scale of the crimes that were committed and the consequences of their crimes."

Manning came out as transgender following her sentencing in 2013. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible." Though Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter recently ended a previous military policy under which transgender soldiers were discharged, the New York Times notes that Trump has raised the possibility of reversing that decision once he enters office.​

Oscar López Rivera, the longest-held political prisoner in Puerto Rico's history, was also granted clemency Tuesday. In a tweet, Rep. Luis Gutierrez thanked President Obama for his last-minute move:

It will be a blessed day when I can walk and talk with my friend Oscar Lopez in fresh air, far from prison walls:

— Luis V. Gutiérrez (@RepGutierrez) January 17, 2017

For more on Obama's record-setting commutations, read the full White House statement on Tuesday's grants right here. 

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