Gov. Matt Bevin reacts after Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 17, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  Chelsea Manning, who had been sentenced to 35 years in prison, formally asked President Obama to commute her sentence last year. She's a transgender woman.  

I believe I earlier identified her as a he. She's a transgender woman now.

Anyway, she's been jailed since being arrested in May 2010, and now will be released in May of this year, some 30-plus years ahead of schedule.  

Reaction now on all of this and the commutations of hundreds of prison- related inmate sentences, largely on drug charges, that the president and his lawyers deemed excessive.  

We got Matt Bevin, the Kentucky Republican governor.

Governor, thank you very much.  

What do you think of these pardons, commutations, whatever?  

GOV. MATT BEVIN, R-KENTUCKY:  I will say this.  It's always been the prerogative of any president.

And it's often, especially at times when they're leaving office, that this is not unprecedented.  These things have always happened.  There's always been controversy around these things.  

One thing that does concern me about this particular instance, though, I'm a former active-duty Army officer.  And there are certain things that set a precedent.  And there's certain messages that are sent.  

And I think if it were not for the fact that this individual, Manning, were caught up in this whole gender -- and I feel for you trying to figure out what the proper gender to name someone is these days in this gender-bending world in which we live.  

If it were not for the fact that a social statement, I believe, is trying to be made here, I think this individual would continue to be and properly so imprisoned for having violated the trust of this nation.  

And I don't think that the time of commutation should be used for making social and political statements, but, sadly, that seems to be perhaps the case here.  

CAVUTO:  Many Republicans are as nervous, as you are, about the message this sends, particularly when Democrats, as you know, Governor, made a great deal of the WikiLeaks that they argue hurt Hillary Clinton upon their revelation here.  

Here we have leaks that potentially were much more dangerous to the nation as a whole.  And the guy behind them, the guy that provided the leaks is now going to be getting out of jail in a matter of months.  

BEVIN:  Yes.  

And I will tell you what.  It shouldn't just be Republicans that are concerned by this.  It should concern Americans.  It should concern Democrats and Republicans and independents alike.  The fact of the matter is, the nation's trust, as it is placed in military personnel, is something not to be trifled with.  

And there are reasons why people are brought up on charges of treason, why people are held to a higher standard for keeping levels of propriety.  And that should not be compromised.  And if people are only offended based on their political party, then perhaps they're not paying close enough attention to what truly is at stake in an instance like this.  

CAVUTO:  Switching gears to the prison commutations, now, that had been something that Barack Obama had laid the groundwork for months ago, some would say even years ago, when he was first speaking out about it, that people are put away oftentimes for many more years than is necessary, including life sentences for those caught with drugs, that that was ridiculous, that we have to reexamine how long we sentence people for and over what issues.

What do you make of that and the signal it sends?  

BEVIN:  I frankly agree with that statement.  I think we do need to rethink about the ways in which we put people away.  

We made a concerted effort some years ago to move to a harder stance on any number of felony convictions in particular, and we moved to a kind of three-strikes-and-that's-it-type of an approach, the net result of which, the vast majority of people caught up on this were convicted on drug- related activity.  

And this is in no way, shape or form meant to condone that, but I do think we have an inordinate amount of people serving time in prison where neither they nor society is necessarily improved upon as a results of these life sentences.  

And so I do think we need criminal justice reform.  I think it needs to be serious.  I think it needs to be thoughtful.  People who were intentionally targeting people and victimizing people through their dealing of drugs should not be dealt with softly.  

But those who got caught up in the drug industry and perhaps were as much a victim in some instances themselves, there are changes that do need to come.  I think we need to be hard on drug activity, if we're never going to fix it.  

But, at the same time, in the state of Kentucky, among other states, we're trying to lead the charge in criminal justice reform in really looking at what is the best way to deal with the epidemic of drugs in our country.  

CAVUTO:  Governor Matt Bevin, thank you very much, sir.  We appreciate it.  

BEVIN:  You're welcome.  

CAVUTO:  Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.


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