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Chelsea Elizabeth Manning is an activist, and former United States Army soldier. She was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified and sensitive military and diplomatic documents, was imprisoned between 2010 and 2017. Manning is a trans woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had a female gender identity since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy. She is currently running for United States Senate, challenging Senator Ben Cardin.
BAYNARD WOODS: For the Real News, I'm Baynard Woods. In April 2010, WikiLeaks released a video that showed the U.S. military killing over a dozen people, including two Reuters journalists. The news agency had been thwarted in its attempt to gain the footage, but a young whistleblower shared the video with WikiLeaks after approaching the New York Times and The Washington Post with thousands of documents. The next month the whistleblower was arrested in Iraq and revealed as Bradley Manning. Manning spent 11 months in solitary confinement before standing trial, which Manning described as a humiliating and degrading experience. Manning, who is trans, began transitioning while in prison. I'm not Bradley Manning, she wrote. I never really was. I'm Chelsea Manning, a proud woman who is transgender and who through this application is respectfully requesting a first chance at life.
That was a request for a commutation of the 35-year sentence handed down for sharing classified information. Manning has strongly rejected the idea that she gave up sources or other intelligence that could have endangered people on the ground and describes the documents as historical. In the final days of his presidency, Barack Obama granted the commutation and Manning was set free.
Now she's running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against Ben Cardin. Manning may be the only candidate for the Senate who's been homeless, served in a war, spent significant time in solitary confinement, and come out as transgender. And all of that makes her a powerful, if unlikely, challenger to Cardin, one of the most establishment of the mainstream Democrats. Manning is here with us in our Baltimore studio today. Welcome, Chelsea.
CHELSEA MANNING: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
BAYNARD WOODS: So I mean, after all of that, I have to start with why would you even want to be in the U.S. Senate?
CHELSEA MANNING: Well, the Senate is where we have our debates about national issues. And national issues, especially the issues that we're facing right now, whether it be ICE detention or the criminal justice system or the militarization of police or the, our broad and expansive surveillance apparatus, and the, the support of the of our foreign policy across the entire world. All of these things are debated and authorized by the funding that comes from the Senate. And so the Senate is the perfect place to challenge this power and this authority.
BAYNARD WOODS: I mean, I want to come back to a lot of those issues. But why, why Maryland, and why Ben Cardin?
CHELSEA MANNING: Well, I'm from Maryland, first off. After I was homeless, I was 18 years old, I was homeless living in Chicago, and my aunt came and saved me and saved my life. And I've lived as my, she lives in Maryland. She lives here in Maryland. And I lived with her for about you know, I live with her since that happened. It's been my place of residence since, as I was in the military, as I was, when I went through trial, as I went through everything, as I was in prison, that was still my home of record. And it was the place that I always intended coming back to if I ever got out. And so here I am.
BAYNARD WOODS: And what is it about Cardin that made him seem like someone that, I mean, there's this moment where mainstream Democrats like Cardin, because they may be a little bit better than Trump, are able to cast themselves as the #Resistance. And so what what makes in this moment Cardin be the right, be the person to challenge in a primary?
CHELSEA MANNING: Ben Cardin is the perfect example of the rest of the Democratic establishment, the entrenched Democratic establishment that, when they're in office, they tread water. They make promises. Expect donations. They're cozy with, you know, interest groups. Why wouldn't, you know, the question is why wouldn't it be Ben Cardin, and why wouldn't I be challenging somebody who is really coopting this whole movement that we have? You know, there's this notion that they're the #Resistance. You know, this is not what, they're not doing what a resistance does, like cozying up to lobbyists and, and focusing on one issue here and there is not how we're going to change things.
BAYNARD WOODS: Yeah. I mean, one of the, he's one of the highest, receives some of the most money from AIPAC. And I mean, how does that affect, do you think, this kind of lobbying money, the foreign policy and domestic policy that people are putting forward, and how would you try to break that if you were in his seat?
CHELSEA MANNING: Right. So, Ben Cardin will never talk about, you know, he might talk about borders here in America but he'll never talk about border walls between Israel and Palestine, he'll never talk about health, health care, like being single payer. He'll never talk about single payer health care, because his primary funders are from the health insurance industry. He is bought and sold, and most of the Democratic Party are bought and sold, which is one of the reasons why I don't accept money from lobbyists. I don't talk to lobbyists, I don't talk, I don't talk to interest groups except for people on the ground, activists and organizers in the community.