At his final press conference Wednesday, President Barack Obama explained his decision to commute Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence.
Manning has served a “significant amount of time” by completing six years of a 35-year sentence, Obama said. The president said he looked at all the “particulars of the case” and felt that the commutation was “entirely appropriate,” adding that Manning’s punishment was “disproportionate” to the crime.
Bradley Manning, Chelsea’s given name, was convicted in 2010 for his role leaking sensitive information to Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, information that revealed American military and diplomatic activities in several regions of the world. WikiLeaks made the information public in April and November of 2010. Manning was sentenced in 2013 and began gender reassignment to become Chelsea Manning while incarcerated.
It was also reported Wednesday that Assange, who is currently holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, said on Twitter that he would allow himself to be extradited to the U.S. to face charges of espionage if Manning were freed. In his press conference, Obama denied that Assange’s offer of extradition had any bearing on his decision and insisted he does not pay attention to Assange’s Twitter account.
Following Obama’s decision to commute the sentence, Assange reneged on that offer, saying through his lawyer that the commutation was “well-short” of the extradition conditions he had originally envisioned.
Obama was also asked about the inherent contradiction between the outcry over WikiLeaks’ purported role in Russian hacking of the 2016 election, and the commutation of Manning, who was proven to have worked with WikiLeaks. Obama said he did not see a contradiction.