Not long after convicted leaker Chelsea Manning announced she will run for the United States Senate in Maryland, a new report suggests Manning’s status with the Pentagon might make it impossible for that campaign to ever get off the ground.
Manning is the transgender Army soldier, formerly known as Bradley Manning, who served five years of a 35-year prison term for leaking more than 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. Former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January 2017, just before he left office.
As noted by The Daily Caller, Manning filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and will be challenging two-term Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland to be the Democratic Party’s nomination.
On Thursday, Manning tweeted a photo of herself with the certificate of candidacy from the Maryland State Board of Elections, raising the stakes for the June 26 primary.
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) January 18, 2018
But a Pentagon regulation barring active duty servicemen and women (Manning might be both) from running for elective office just might make a Manning Senate bid impossible.
As part of her FEC filings, Manning is listed as a “former Army private,” but that is incorrect.
The Daily Caller reported Sunday that Manning remains an active-duty soldier while awaiting a decision in her appeal from a court-martial for violating the Espionage Act.
Under Obama’s commutation, Manning was freed from the Army prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in May.
She may have skirted the full punishment for treason, but Department of Defense regulations prohibit Manning from running for office while listed as an active-duty soldier.
With that, the Pentagon has the power to prosecute Manning for violating regulations, unless Secretary of Defense James Mattis grants explicit permission — and that’s highly unlikely. The military despises traitors even more than the general public, and Mattis is nothing if not military — to the marrow of his bones.
In fact, this Senate run could just be putting Manning in the Pentagon’s gun sights again.
Dru Brenner-Beck, retired Army judge advocate general and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told The Daily Caller the Defense Department regulation in question is paragraph 4.2.2 of Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.
“That paragraph is punitive and violation of it subjects her to courts-martial for violation of a lawful order or regulation under Article 92,” Brenner-Beck said, according to The Daily Caller. “Her activities campaigning for herself and fundraising for herself may also violate other provisions of the DoD Directive, themselves separately punishable under the UCMJ, art. 92.”
Brenner-Beck said the decision to prosecute Manning would be a “discretionary decision by her chain of command.”
Victor M. Hansen, a law professor at New England School of Law in Boston and a former military lawyer, agreed with Brenner-Beck that Manning’s run for the Senate could subject her to prosecution.
“It’s prohibited for the obvious reason that you don’t want someone serving two masters on active-duty,” Hansen told The Daily Caller.
However, he did see some precedent Manning supporters could argue.
“But in Manning’s case, it’s less of a concern, because she’s on excess leave,” he said. “She has less connection with the military than GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham did when he was an Air Force reserve judge advocate general and certainly less than Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster does while serving as national security adviser to Donald Trump.”
Some officials worry that if the Pentagon declines to prosecute Manning, it could open the door to other active-duty members of the military running for public office or engaging in political activities that violate DOD regulations.
Just about any serious person would agree that Manning’s treasonous actions warrant a prison cell a lot more than a chance to become a member of Congress.
The law should definitely stop Manning in this case because allowing a traitor to take any form of office would be a complete disgrace.
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