Trump Mulls Pardon For Blackwater Mercenary Convicted Of First-Degree Murder
President Donald Trump reportedly is considering a pardon for former Blackwater mercenary Nicholas Slatten, who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2007 massacre of civilians at the Nisour Square traffic circle in Baghdad.
According to The Daily Beast, Slatten’s family has lobbied the White House for a pardon, along with Fox News host Pete Hegseth and Clint Lorance — one of the convicted war criminals who already received a presidential pardon from Trump.
The infamous massacre at the Nisour Square traffic circle began when Blackwater’s tactical support team known as Raven 23 acted in “disregard of an order from Blackwater’s command”, according to the Justice Department’s characterization, and “ blockaded the bustling traffic circle of Nisour Square hours after a car bomb detonated nearby.”
When a white Kia sedan began attempting to move forward in the traffic jam, the contractors “opened fire with machine guns and even grenades out of fear the Kia was another bomb,” The Daily Beast recounted.
More than one dozen unarmed Iraqi’s were killed in the ensuing violence, and another 17 people were injured.
Blackwater — the security firm founded by Erik Prince, a Trump ally and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — insisted the incident was a “tragic example of the confusion present in an insurgent war, not a crime.”
But neither the Iraqis nor the Justice Department shared this view, and members of Raven 23 were put on trial. After a series of prosecutorial missteps, Slatten was finally convicted in 2018 and handed a life sentence for allegedly being the first to open fire.
Slatten and his attorneys deny that he fired the first shot and have claimed that Paul Slough, another member of Raven 23, “confessed to being the first to open fire and charged the government with withholding evidence that exonerates Slatten.”
Slatten was offered a plea deal in 2018 but reportedly did not accept it due to rumors that Trump would intervene with a pardon.
It remains unclear whether Trump will follow through with a pardon after “taking a look at” Slatten’s case, as he reportedly has said he will do.
“He’s said he wants to do more,” an administration official, who has discussed this case and others with the president, told The Daily Beast. “There are more warriors out there who he believes have been treated unfairly and whose [cases] need another look.”
But Gary Solis, a retired Marine judge advocate, ex-West Point law professor and Vietnam combat veteran, believes Trump would be making a grave mistake by letting Slatten off the hook.
He told The Daily Beast that there “can be no good reason, legal or humanitarian, for exercising clemency in a case like Nisour Square and those who were involved in it.”
Solis added that Trump “knows nothing about these individuals, or what goes on on the battlefield… and yet he wants to play the general and the Fox News hero.”