We spent the last two months hearing that Wikileaks is a tool of the devil and that Trump has nothing but contempt for America’s intelligence community, and Obama’s parting gesture as he steps out the door is … to groin-punch the IC by commuting the sentence of the most famous Wikileaker of them all?
Am I awake? Why would Obama forfeit Democrats’ momentary “we’re the party of national security!” messaging this way?
The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to commit suicide last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the male military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.
Now, under the terms of Mr. Obama’s commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed in five months, on May 17 of this year, rather than in 2045.
The commutation also relieved the Department of Defense of the difficult responsibility of her incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria — including sex reassignment surgery — that the military has no experience providing.
Sean Davis extracts the lesson here: “Giving classified info to Wikileaks is good as long as it only endangers national security and not Democrat careers.”
Ed made the case a few days ago that, between the DNC and Podesta hackings and Manning’s massive, unprecedented document dump, it was the latter that likely pleased Russia more by embarrassing the United States abroad and leaving the White House scrambling to clean up the mess diplomatically. Either Obama designed this as some outgoing pander to his LGBT base, on the theory that someone who was in turmoil over his gender somehow can’t be blamed for coping by, um, handing hundreds of thousands of U.S. documents to Russian ally Julian Assange, or … there’s a deal in the works. Is there?
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
Jazz flagged that tweet the other day and wondered what possible deal could be in the offing. I’m wondering the same thing. Even if Assange keeps his promise and surrenders, why the hell would Obama want Assange’s fate in the hands of Trump? Trump spent the final month of the campaign name-checking Wikileaks practically every day on the trail as they leaked Podesta’s emails. His number-one fan, Sean Hannity, later thanked Assange with a fawning interview from the Ecuadorean embassy. Trump cited Assange’s claims that Russia didn’t give him the Podesta emails to counter the CIA’s assessment that they did, and Assange has repaid the kindness by criticizing Obama for trying to delegitimize Trump’s victory. It’s a love-in all around. There’s no way Assange gets a stiff sentence from the Trump administration, even in the unlikely event that he gives himself up.
Or is that the point? Obama’s been trying to box in Trump in all sorts of ways since the election, most recently by ending the “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Cuba. Maybe calling Assange’s bluff about giving himself up if Manning’s sentence is commuted is another way. If Assange surrenders, Trump will be stuck having to decide whether to throw the book at him, which will piss off all the Trumpers who admire Wikileaks for its help in the great victory, or to let him go as thanks for his election help, which will piss off everyone else insofar as it’ll essentially constitute a quid pro quo for Assange’s willingness to launder hacked material obtained by Russian intelligence to try to tilt the U.S. election. It’d be a dilemma. Although Trump could always go the Obama route, I guess — prosecute Assange, hit him with a heavy sentence, then commute his time later when people are paying less attention. That might send the IC into even more of a rage than Manning’s commutation will. Although it’s a high bar.
Exit quotation via Drew McCoy: “Edward Snowden should really consider announcing he’s going to undergo gender reassignment surgery ASAP.”
Update: Good question here. When does the White House announce that Bowe Bergdahl is being pardoned too?
Update: Right. And he’ll deserve it too:
Obama will be blamed for every jr. intel officer who goes off the reservation for the next 15 or so years. Quite rightly.
— Dan Murphy (@bungdan) January 17, 2017
Update: Early reaction among O’s own party isn’t good:
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) January 17, 2017
Update: Thomas Joscelyn remembers an AP report from 2013 about Al Qaeda leaders “reveling” in the Wikileaks documents dumped by Manning and “urging members to study them before devising ways to attack the United States.” In particular, “Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published.”