In a tweet Thursday, President Donald Trump criticized Chelsea Manning, the jailed U.S. solider who leaked classified military documents, for a jab she made at former President Barack Obama.
On its surface, Trump’s tweet looks like a criticism of Manning, who some consider a traitor for providing hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents to WikiLeaks in 2010.
Obama dramatically reduced Manning’s 35-year prison sentence just over a week ago. In an op-ed for The Guardian published Thursday, Manning criticized Obama as having a “vulnerable legacy,” saying that what America needs “is an unapologetic progressive leader.”
While he’s still explicitly critical of Obama’s decision to reduce Manning’s sentence, Trump ― who has made it very clear in the past that he does not think highly of Obama’s work in the White House ― appears to have taken offense to Manning’s criticism of the 44th president.
Trump, who is known for firing off series of related tweets in quick succession, had no follow-up to this post.
Manning didn’t seem fazed by Trump’s criticism, tweeting a link to rapper Jay Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” in response.
Also notable in Trump’s tweet is his reference to Manning ― a transgender woman who came out in 2013 ― by her preferred name.
The military resisted using female or gender-neutral pronouns with regard to Manning until 2015, when a U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals ruled it was required. She is currently incarcerated in all-male prison. She is permitted to wear female prison undergarments and use some cosmetics, but is barred from having long hair, The New York Times reports.
It’s possible Trump may have used Manning’s preferred name while repeating language he heard on Fox News. As CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out, Trump used the phrases “ungrateful traitor” and “weak leader” in his tweet, which was sent 14 minutes after those same phrases were spoken by anchors on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning.
Trump’s tweet shouldn’t be seen as any endorsement from him on transgender rights. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the administration’s plans for Obama’s executive order that protected LGBTQ federal workers from discrimination.
“I just don’t know the answer,” Spicer said, implying that Trump’s team has yet to formulate an approach to LGBTQ issues.