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Analysis: President Obama defends decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence

by AirTalk®

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US President Barack Obama speaks during a surprise appearance at White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest's last daily press briefing of the Obama administration. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama defended his decision to shorten the sentence of convicted leaker Chelsea Manning during his final news conference on Wednesday, two days before his second term ends.

Manning was among 273 people granted clemency Tuesday by Obama. The former Army intelligence analyst asked Obama last November to commute her 35-year sentence for giving classified government and military documents to the WikiLeaks website. Manning, who was known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest, is more than six years into the sentence. She is to be released from prison in May. Republicans blasted the decision to commute Manning's sentence, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling it "outrageous" and saying Obama had set a "dangerous precedent" that anyone guilty of compromising U.S. national security will no longer have to pay for their crimes.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest previewed Obama's line of defense, saying in television interviews Wednesday morning that the amount of time Manning had served was consistent with sentences imposed on others found guilty of committing similar crimes.

One name missing from the list of pardons and commutations the White House announced Tuesday is U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The former prisoner of war is accused of endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan, and has asked Obama for a pardon. A pardon would allow Bergdahl to avert a military trial scheduled for April. He faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

At the conference, Obama addressed the role of the free press in a functioning democracy, U.S. relations with Russia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other topics. He also stressed that he would not be running for office any time soon.

Guest host Frank Stoltze checks in to analyze Obama’s statements and his defense of Chelsea Manning’s shortened sentence.   

With AP Files. 

Guest:

Cathleen Decker, politics reporter for the LA Times, who is in DC today covering the presser; she tweets @CathleenDecker

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