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Chelsea Manning Calls 'Compromise' Fatal Flaw of Obama Legacy

Chelsea Manning critiqued the legacy of President Barack Obama just over a week after the former commander-in-chief made the controversial decision to commute her sentence.
Imprisoned U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning
Imprisoned U.S. soldier Chelsea ManningU.S. Army / US Army - AFP - Getty Images

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was convicted of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, critiqued the legacy of President Barack Obama just over a week after the former commander-in-chief made the controversial decision to commute her 2013 sentence.

And her analysis has drawn a swift rebuke from the current occupant of the White House, President Donald Trump.

Although Manning, her family and many supporters are undoubtedly grateful that Obama dramatically reduced her sentence from its initial 35 years to just a few more months, plus time served, the former Army private still suggested that the ex-president's penchant for compromise with his political foes hamstrung his administration.

"For eight years, it did not matter how balanced President Obama was. It did not matter how educated he was, or how intelligent he was. Nothing was ever good enough for his opponents," Manning wrote in The Guardian. "It was clear that he could not win. It was clear that, no matter what he did, in their eyes, he could not win."

Related: President Obama Grants 330 Commutations in Historic Final Act

"The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader," she added.

Early on Thursday morning, Trump lashed out at Manning on Twitter, writing: "Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!"

Ironically, Trump frequently called Obama "weak" (as well as a "disaster," "the worst president, maybe in the history our country" and "unfit to serve") both prior to and during his campaign to succeed him. Trump also routinely questioned Obama's intelligence, patriotism and, for several years, his citizenship.

Manning acknowledged that Obama left behind "hints of a progressive legacy," and she wrote earnestly of the hope and optimism she felt during both of his elections. But she also lamented the fact that too many of his achievements were fleeting and that, in some cases (like his response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando) she believes the president was too slow to speak up for marginalized and ostracized communities.

People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, California June 28, 2015.Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters

Her critical tone is a far cry from her past written pleas to the Obama administration for a pardon. After her initial attempt to be granted a reprieve was rejected three years ago, Manning admitted later her request had been "too soon" and "too much."

"I should have waited. I needed time to absorb the conviction, and to reflect on my actions. I also needed time to grow and mature as a person," she wrote.

Related: Chelsea Manning Again Attempts Suicide in Prison, Attorney Says

The decision to commute Manning's sentence was one of the more divisive moves President Obama made in his final days in office. Although the majority of the public approved of his historic number of commutations of non-violent drug offenders, his choice to spare Manning was met with more resistance, particularly among Republicans.

US President Barack Obama departs the Brady Press Briefing Room after his last press conference as president at the White House in Washington on Jan. 18, 2017.Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Obama defended his decision, which had been anticipated for some time, in his final press conference as president.

"Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence, so the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished, I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served," he told reporters. "It has been my view that given she went to trial; that due process was carried out; that she took responsibility for her crime; that the sentence that she received was very disproportional — disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received; and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made sense to commute and not pardon her sentence."

NBC News reached out to the Obama Foundation to see if the former president had any further comment or reaction to Manning's column in The Guardian, but has not heard back at this time.

Manning, who came out as transgender shortly after her sentencing, has made two suicide attempts in just the past year and gone on a hunger strike during her seven years in military prison. She has long sought what she considers proper treatment for the anxiety-producing condition, gender dysphoria.

She is set to be released from prison on May 17.