No, President Trump and supporters, President Obama didn’t pardon Chelsea Manning.
Trump and various right-wing commentators have brought up Manning in defending his pardon of former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court for defying a judge’s order to cease raids of Latino neighborhoods in search of undocumented immigrants; his department did not have the authority to enforce federal immigration law, and the U.S. Justice Department had ruled that the raids constituted racial profiling. Trump announced the pardon of Arpaio Friday evening.
John Roberts of the Fox News Channel questioned Trump about the pardon during a press conference the president held today with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. “What do you say to your critics, even some in your own party, who say it was the wrong thing to do?”
Trump responded by listing controversial pardons and sentence commutations by Presidents Clinton and Obama, such as Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, a financier who was convicted of violating federal law by doing business with Iran during the hostage crisis, and Obama’s action regarding Manning, who was convicted of violating the Espionage Act by sharing classified government documents and other sensitive materials with WikiLeaks while serving in the U.S. Army.
“Horrible, horrible thing that he did, commuted the sentence, and perhaps pardoned,” Trump said.
But Obama didn’t pardon Manning. As one of his last acts in office, he commuted most of the transgender leaker’s sentence. She had been incarcerated since her arrest in 2010, and in 2013 she was sentenced to spend 35 years in prison. Under the commutation, she was freed in May of this year, having spent seven years behind bars, when the typical sentence for leakers is one to three years. The conviction remains on her record.
This wasn’t the first time Trump had mischaracterized Obama’s treatment of Manning, not even the first time today. He started the day by sharing a tweet from Fox News and Townhall contributor Katie Pavlich, who said Obama “pardoned a traitor who gave U.S. enemies state secrets.” Pavlich originally sent the tweet during a debate with Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser in the Obama administration, Newsweek reports.
Also today, another conservative commentator, Byron York, said Obama pardoned Manning, Media Matters reports. York, a Fox News contributor and chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, made the statement on Fox’s America’s Newsroom.
Manning has made it clear she doesn’t care to be put in the same category as Arpaio. “Why does everyone insist on comparing my commutation with the pardon of some crooked cop?” she tweeted Friday night.
Also at today’s press conference, Roberts asked Trump about the timing of the Arpaio pardon announcement, coming as Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Texas. Trump responded that the timing served to get more attention for the news. “I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” he said.