Lock her up: Former military lawyers say Chelsea Manning could be prosecuted for Senate candidacy

As we reported earlier, Chelsea Manning has filed paperwork to run in the Democrat primary for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.  But, the Daily Caller reported Sunday, that run could subject Manning to prosecution for violating Pentagon regulations on political activities, former military lawyers say.

On Thursday, Manning posted a certificate of candidacy to Twitter obtained from the Maryland State Board of Elections, a required step in the process of running for Senate. One of the lines of the certificate states: “I am a registered voter and a citizen of Maryland and meet all other requirements for the above listed office.”

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According to the Marylandstate board website, Manning filed in Annapolis on Thursday, well in advance of the late February deadline and raises the stakes for the Democratic primary in Maryland set to begin at the end of June.

According to the Daily Caller:

As part of the coverage of Manning’s filing with the FEC and state board, virtually every media organization has declared that Manning is a former Army private. In fact, as the Army confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation in September 2017, Manning remains an active-duty soldier, albeit on excess leave and in a non-pay status while his appeal of a general court-martial for violating the Espionage Act and other orders is underway. And as ABC News noted in May 2017, Manning must remain in an active-duty status while the appeal process continues.

Manning was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison, but then-President Barack Obama commuted the sentence as one of his last acts in office, freeing Manning from a military prison in Kansas.

The Army also said Manning currently holds an active-duty identification card and acknowledged his status and access to government health care prior to his release.

Manning’s felony conviction may not automatically disqualify a run for office, his active-duty status is a different matter.

“Dru Brenner-Beck, retired Army judge advocate general and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that on the face of it, Manning is prohibited by Department of Defense regulations from running for office while serving in an active-duty capacity. The only exception is if Secretary of Defense James Mattis grants explicit permission, a power that cannot be delegated by a secretary to anyone else,” Jonah Bennett reported.

The regulation in question, according to Brenner-Beck, is DOD Directive 1344.10 Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, dated Feb. 9, 2008, para. 4.2.2.

“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. “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.”

Prosecution in this case is a “discretionary decision by her chain of command,” Brenner Beck added.

Victor M. Hansen, law professor at New England Law and former military lawyer, agreed.

“It’s prohibited for the obvious reason that you don’t want someone serving two masters on active-duty,” he said. “But in Manning’s case, it’s less of a concern, because she’s on excess leave – 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.”

He also said it’s likely the Army wants the Manning issue to fade away from the public spotlight rather than having a commander take the time to open an investigation, the Daily Caller reported.

Manning denied the Senate run was merely a public relations stunt and insisted that despite Sen. Ben Cardin’s popularity and strong base of support, he is dead-set on both running and winning.

“We know it’s a real fight ahead of us,” Manning said in an interview with The Guardian. “We do want to win, but if we lose our principles then winning wouldn’t matter.”

Manning, who was convicted of giving away classified documents under the Espionage Act, has been endorsed by Sharia Law proponent Linda Sarsour.

Neither Manning nor the Army responded to the DCNF, Bennett said.

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