President Trump issued 15 pardons and five commutations Tuesday, including pardons for four former Blackwater contractors involved in a massacre in Iraq, three corrupt former Republican lawmakers, two people convicted in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting an undocumented immigrant.
The Blackwater guards included Nicholas Slatten, who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the 2007 Nisoor Square massacre, when he and other Blackwater mercenaries opened fire with machine guns and grenades on a crowded public space in Baghdad, killing 17 unarmed civilians, including women and children. The youngest victim was a 9-year-old named Ali Kinani. This is Ali’s father Mohammed speaking to Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley in a short documentary called “Blackwater’s Youngest Victim.”
Mohammed Kinani: “It was horrific, extremely terrifying. I still wake up from sleep startled. 'Why?' I ask. 'Why would they do this?' We were civilians sitting in our cars. Most of the cars had families in them. So why did this happen? I kept hearing 'Boom! Boom! Boom!' in my car. Bullets were flying everywhere. It was horrific. Horrific. I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe it.”
Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, a close ally of President Trump. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary. Click here to see our full coverage of the Nisoor Square massacre.
Trump also pardoned Ignacio Ramos and José Compeán, two former Border Patrol agents who were convicted in 2006 of shooting an unarmed Mexican man and then covering it up. A pardon was also given to George Papadopoulos, a 2016 campaign foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its Russia investigation. The three former congressmen given pardons or commutations are all allies of President Trump: Duncan Hunter, who had pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds; Chris Collins, who pleaded guilty to insider trading; and Steve Stockman, who was convicted for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations. Trump was pushed to commute Stockman’s 10-year sentence by the conspiracy theorist lawyer Sidney Powell, who has been helping Trump try to overturn the November election. Trump also reduced the sentences of three women convicted of nonviolent drug crimes.