Senate Republicans offered a sharp rebuke of President Obama's decision to commute the remainder of Chelsea Manning's sentence, which comes only three days before he is set to leave office.
While speaking to reporters at the Capitol soon after the news emerged, Senate Republicans condemned the decision, which came seven years after Manning was convicted and earned a 35-year sentence for leaking sensitive information about American military activities to WikiLeaks. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Obama is "determined to do as much damage as humanly possible" before officially leaving office Friday.
"Barack Obama seems bound and determined to do as much damage as humanly possible up until the very instant he leaves the Oval Office," Cruz told a gaggle of reporters. "It is unfortunate to see a president who has such little respect for the American people and the verdict they rendered on Election Day that he continues to wreak havoc, and in the instance of this commutation, to disregard the safety and security of American service men and women all across this country."
"There will be an enormous sigh of relief that Obama can no longer force his radical agenda on the American people come noon on Friday, Jan. 20," Cruz added.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the most outspoken GOP voices on foreign affairs, deemed the move "a slap in the face to members of the armed services who serve honorably."
"President Obama, by granting granting clemency in my view, slapped our men and women who serve honorably in the face," Graham said. "I think it's outrageous."
Manning's commutation was one of 209 the White House announced Tuesday. The White House also said 64 inmates would receive a pardon.
In a statement, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called it "shameful" for Obama to side "with lawbreakers" over members of the armed services by commuting Manning's sentence.
"Private Manning violated an oath as a member of the U.S. military and endangered the lives of fellow servicemembers and individuals in contact with the U.S. government around the world. Private Manning further aided our enemies by disclosing highly classified sources and methods our intelligence professionals rely on to obtain secrets in defense of our nation," Rubio said. "It is shameful that President Obama is siding with lawbreakers and the ACLU against the men and women who work every day to defend our nation and safeguard U.S. government secrets."
GOP senators were baffled by the move, especially those who were first hearing about it from reporters. When asked for a reaction to the news, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said it was the first he had heard of the decision.
"That happened today?" Toomey asked incredulously. "Wow. I was not aware of that."