Chelsea Manning officially announced a Senate campaign last week. Military lawyers say the decision has made Manning vulnerable to new prosecution.
What’s going on?
In the days after Manning announced her candidacy, many questioned whether she fulfilled the constitutional requirements to become a senator, given that she has multiple felony convictions.
Manning silenced critics on Thursday when she obtained her certificate of candidacy from the Maryland State Board of Elections.
However, Manning’s decision has made her susceptible to future prosecution, military law experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation. That’s because Manning is still considered an active-duty military member — who is non-paid and on excess-leave while she appeals her convictions — and active-duty military are prohibited from participating in partisan political activities, such as running for Congress as a Democrat.
Why is Manning prevented from running?
Dru Brenner-Beck, a retired Army judge advocate, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that Defense Department regulations prohibit Manning from participating in political activities, let alone run for Congress, while she still holds an active-duty ID card.
Specifically, participating in political activities while an active-duty solider violates DOD Directive 1344.10. According to the regulations, running for Senate would require Manning to violate many of the regulations, including most of paragraph 4.1.2, in addition to 4.2.2. The latter reads:
A regular member, or a retired regular or Reserve Component member on active duty under a call or order to active duty for more than 270 days, may not be a nominee or candidate for [A civil office in a State; the District of Columbia; a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States; or any political subdivision thereof] except when the Secretary concerned grants permission.
Brenner-Beck went on to explain that violating the regulations would open Manning up to another court-martial.
"That paragraph is punitive and violation of it subjects her to courts-martial for violation of a lawful order or regulation under Article 92,” he said. “Her activities campaigning for herself and fundraising for herself may also violate other provisions of the DoD Directive, themselves separately punishable under the UCMJ, art. 92."
Will Manning be prosecuted?
Whether or not Manning will be prosecuted is up to the chain-of-command, Brenner-Beck said. However, he told the DCNF that he believes the Trump administration may pursue additional prosecution against Manning because of the hard-line position it took against Bowe Bergdahl, who last year plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Meanwhile, another former military lawyer, Victor Hansen, told the DCNF that prosecution is unlikely because the military likely wants to separate themselves as far from Manning as possible.
Still, Hansen warned that senior military leaders could be pressured to act against Manning.
"There’s always the risk that somebody could put pressure on that commander or take it to a higher level and prosecute at that level, so there is a risk of unlawful command influence," he said. "If someone were to decide that we want to bring charges for Manning on this, that would be the very thing I would look into — who made the decision, why, and was there any outside pressures from above."
Manning, who is is running for the seat currently held by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), is a transgender Army private who was convicted of crimes in 2013 under the Espionage Act for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.