Top Republicans blast Obama's decision to commute Chelsea Manning's sentence

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top Republicans released statements Tuesday blasting President Barack Obama's decision to commute the majority of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning's prison sentence.

Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, among other charges, in 2013 after she stole secret documents from a computer system she had access to while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and leaked them to WikiLeaks in 2010.

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Reaction to President Obama commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence
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Reaction to President Obama commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence
In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer! https://t.co/PaLvJDvDbl
Chelsea Manning's treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation's most sensitive secrets. M… https://t.co/kr8psYpSRv
VICTORY: Obama commutes Chelsea Manning sentence from 35 years to 7. Release date now May 17. Background: https://t.co/HndsbVbRer
We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr. My statement on the commutation of Chelsea Manning's prison sentence: https://t.co/8f0QMITSAQ
Chelsea Manning risked EVERYTHING & has languished in prison for 7yrs cause she chose 2 reveal documents about the lies that led to Iraq War
I am disappointed with @POTUS' decision to commute the sentence of #ChelseaManning.
.@SenJohnMcCain was asked about @POTUS' Chelsea Manning commutation. Called it "so inappropriate" and said he was "stunned."
Former Army PFC #Manning stabbed fellow service members in the back by releasing classified information which put them at risk. (1)
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"This is just outrageous," Ryan said in a statement. "Chelsea Manning's treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation's most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won't be held accountable for their crimes."

Sen. Tom Cotton, a veteran, also criticized Obama's decision.

"When I was leading soldiers in Afghanistan, Private Manning was undermining us by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks," he said in a statement. "I don't understand why the president would feel special compassion for someone who endangered the lives of our troops, diplomats, intelligence officers, and allies. We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr."

Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the commutation a "grave mistake."

"President Obama's commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence is a grave mistake that I fear will encourage further acts of espionage and undermine military discipline," McCain said in a statement. "It also devalues the courage of real whistleblowers who have used proper channels to hold our government accountable."

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President Obama commutes Chelsea Manning's sentence
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President Obama commutes Chelsea Manning's sentence
U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, who was born male but identifies as a woman, imprisoned for handing over classified files to pro-transparency site WikiLeaks, is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on August 14, 2013.Courtesy U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, California June 28, 2015. Manning has appealed to an Army court to overturn her court-martial conviction, a court filing released on Thursday said. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo
A placard showing Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden photos is seen during the Easter March for Peace in Roemerberg, Frankfurt, Germany, 06 April 2015. Some 2000 demonstrators gathered before the City Hall to advocate for peace, under the motto 'Stop war and war propaganda - Solve conflicts peacefully'. Thousands have gathered to participate in over 80 events for peace during the Easter period in Germany. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images)
ODEONSPLATZ, MUNICH, BAVARIA, GERMANY - 2015/10/10: Demonstrators gather to protest against surveillance especially by the NSA. Amnesty International demands Obama to hand over his peace Nobel Price to Chelsea manning. (Photo by Michael Trammer/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse during his court martial at Fort Meade in Maryland, August, 20, 2013. Manning, 25, the soldier convicted of giving classified U.S. files to WikiLeaks, could face as up to 90 years in prison for giving more than 700,000 classified files, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables to the pro-transparency website. Prosecutors asked for 60 years, while the defense asked the judge not to rob him of his youth. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY)
Demonstration for Chelsea Manning in London, England, United Kingdom. Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning) is a United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years imprisonment, with the possibility of parole in the eighth year, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Army. Manning is a trans woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had felt female since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy. From early life and through much of her Army life, Manning was known as Bradley; she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder while in the Army. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Demonstration for Chelsea Manning in London, England, United Kingdom. Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning) is a United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years imprisonment, with the possibility of parole in the eighth year, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Army. Manning is a trans woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had felt female since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy. From early life and through much of her Army life, Manning was known as Bradley; she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder while in the Army. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
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He continued: "It is a sad, yet perhaps fitting commentary on President Obama's failed national security policies that he would commute the sentence of an individual that endangered the lives of American troops, diplomats, and intelligence sources by leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive government documents to Wikileaks, a virulently anti-American organization that was a tool of Russia's recent interference in our elections."

Manning received a 35-year sentence for the leak and has served seven years in Fort Leavenworth. She will now be freed in five months, on May 17.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told The New York Times on Tuesday that there's a "pretty stark difference" between Manning's case and that of former government employee Edward Snowden.

"Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing," Earnest said. "Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy."

Jeremy Berke contributed to this report.

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SEE ALSO: Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning's sentence — she'll be free in 5 months


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