You can be forgiven if you’ve completely forgotten about Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning and what she’s been up to lately. After all, she’s been stuck in the Alexandria Detention Center for about 11 months in contempt of court.
As you may recall, Manning was court-martialed and imprisoned for violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after she leaked nearly 750,000 classified and otherwise sensitive documents to Wikileaks. She was behind bars from 2010 until 2017 when President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.
While Manning was hoping the Army would pay for her “gender reassignment surgery” while she was serving her sentence, it didn’t happen. (Manning finally achieved that goal in 2018, in case you were wondering).
In February 2019, Manning received a subpoena to testify in a US government case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. She refused and ended up behind bars, where she’s been since. She faces a $1,000 daily fine and up to 18 months in prison for civil contempt – she’s got 7 months left.
Now’s she petitioning to be released, saying she’s in the same boat as President Trump, regarding refusing to testify. She feels the entire grand jury process is political and selectively enforced – and has no plans to testify no matter what.
“The Attorney General was in contempt of a congressional subpoena but faced no consequences,” she wrote in a letter to Judge Anthony J. Trenga. “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.”
Well, that may be true, but not exactly in this instance.
Per the Washington Post, "Manning’s arguments conflate testimony before a grand jury with that ordered by Congress. Although some Trump officials have refused subpoenas by Congress, those who have refused to appear in front of grand juries face contempt of court punishments, as she has."
Although Congress has the power to issue subpoenas demanding that witnesses appear and evidence be presented, the Senate and the House don’t have the same enforcement powers of a federal or state prosecutor.
The other thing is civil contempt is meant to be coercive, not punitive. I other words, it’s designed to get someone to change their mind.
Apparently, as they say, “the lady’s not for turning.” Well, except for…oh, never mind.
If worst comes to worst, Manning said she’s prepared to spend seven more months in jail.
“I have been separated from my loved ones, deprived of sunlight, and could not even attend my mother's funeral,” she wrote in her filing. “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.”
Hm. What do y’all think?