Evan Liberty was reading in the top bunk of his cell one evening late last month when a prison supervisor delivered news he had hoped for.
“He says, ‘Are you ready for this?’” Liberty recalled. “I said, ‘Uh, I’m not sure. What is going on?’ He said, ‘Presidential pardon. Pack your stuff.’”
Liberty is one of four former Blackwater contractors pardoned by President Donald Trump in one of Trump’s final acts in office, wiping away their convictions in a 2007 shooting rampage in Baghdad that killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians. Even for a president who has repeatedly exercised his pardon power on personal associates and political supporters, Trump’s clemency for the contractors was met with especially intense condemnation, both in the United States and the Middle East.
Historically, presidential pardons have been reserved for nonviolent crimes, not manslaughter or murder, and the traditional process led by the Justice Department values acceptance of responsibility and remorse from those convicted of crimes. The Blackwater contractors meet none of those criteria. They were convicted in the killings of unarmed Iraqi women and children and have long been defiant in their assertions of innocence.
In an interview with The Associated Press, his first since being