President Donald Trump called Chelsea Manning an “ungrateful TRAITOR” in an early morning tweet Thursday, the President’s first public comments since the former army private and leaker had her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama.
“Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!” Trump wrote in a post.
Trump appeared to be responding to an op-ed in the Guardian that Manning shared on Twitter on Wednesday in which she wrote that Obama’s presidency had been insufficiently progressive.
“Takeaway from the @BarackObama legacy: What we need is a strong #unapologeticprogressive to lead us,” Manning wrote in a tweet that linked to her piece.
“The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise,” Manning wrote in the op-ed. “They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader.”
Manning’s op-ed does not specifically call Obama a “weak leader,” but Trump’s tweet was sent minutes after a Fox News discussion aired, which featured a banner that read “UNGRATEFUL TRAITOR,” and Fox News commentator Abby Huntsman described Obama “as a weak leader with few permanent accomplishments.”
Obama commuted Manning’s sentence for her role in the 2010 WikiLeaks controversy in the final week of his presidency, a move that immediately drew criticism. Manning thanked Obama in a tweet after her commutation was announced: “Thank you @BarackObama for giving me a chance. =,)”
Manning, a transgender woman, was serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, having been convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks. But she was stationed at an all-male Army prison in eastern Kansas, despite her request to transfer to a civilian prison.
Chase Strangio, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Manning, said he was “relieved and thankful” Obama commuted her sentence, and Amnesty International also cheered news of Manning’s commutation. Obama’s White House released a statement last week saying her prison sentence is set to expire on May 17.
Trump was harshly critical of government leaks during his presidential campaign, even as he repeatedly praised WikiLeaks for disseminating damaging documents that were stolen from the rival campaign of Hillary Clinton. In response to the news that Manning had been pardoned during Obama’s final week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump was “troubled” by the commutation.