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Chelsea Manning points to Trump in new petition for jail release

Chelsea Manning at the 22nd Annual OUT100 Celebration Gala in New York on Nov. 9, 2017. (Dennis Van Tine/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 20, 2020

Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning filed a new petition on Wednesday to be released from jail, where she was placed for contempt of court after refusing to testify in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s case.

Manning has been jailed since March 2019 after refusing to testify in Assange’s case and has previously petitioned for release. On Wednesday, Manning petitioned once more to be released from jail, the Washington Post reported.

Manning was previously convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for disclosing classified Pentagon information to Assange. Then-President Barrack Obama commuted the 35 years remaining on Manning’s sentence, but the former Army intelligence analyst has been back in a detention center for the last 11 months for continuing to refuse to testify.

Manning’s latest petition maintains a refusal to testify. She faces a $1,000 daily fine and up to 18 months in prison for civil contempt. In Manning’s latest appeal, she said she would be willing to face the remaining seven months in prison if needed, but that she would remain silent about Assange.

“I have been separated from my loved ones, deprived of sunlight, and could not even attend my mother’s funeral,” Manning’s petition to Judge Anthony J. Trenga read. “It is easier to endure these hardships now than to cooperate to win back some comfort, and live the rest of my life knowing that I acted out of self-interest and not principle.”

Though Manning was convicted in leaking to WikiLeaks, Assange has continued to maintain the secrecy of all of his sources and has never disavowed Manning.

In Manning’s latest appeal, she compared her own refusal to comply with subpoenas to those of officials in President Donald Trump’s administration who have defied Congressional subpoenas.

“The Attorney General was in contempt of a congressional subpoena but faced no consequences,” Manning’s petition to Trenga said. “The President has been instructing his associates not to comply with grand jury subpoenas and witness subpoenas for at least two years, and has even fired people for their compliance with subpoenas. It is clear that the rules are different for different people.”

Manning’s arguments conflate her being called to testify before a grand jury as equivalent to Congressional subpoenas for which Trump has invoked executive privilege and for which Congress lacks the enforceability that would otherwise exist for a state or federal prosecutor to enforce a court subpoena.

Congress did impeach Trump for a charge of obstruction of Congress, though Trump’s impeachment defense team insisted the president was within his rights to challenge the subpoena and that Congress withdrew the subpoenas before the judicial branch could weigh in.

Assange is currently facing trial in a U.K. court, where the WikiLeaks founder has fought extradition to the U.S. where he faces up to 175 years in prison.