Following the riots inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, the Trump administration is facing a slew of resignations. One of those resignations came from Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, who submitted a formal letter of resignation, citing the violence in Washington, D.C. as the reason for her resignation. Although she's resigned, there are many who still wonder what sort of relationship her brother Erik Prince has with the president.
Did Betsy Devos' brother receive a pardon?
Devos' brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of the Blackwater group, a group of private security contractors who have worked in tandem with U.S. troops abroad. Recently, President Trump announced that he would be issuing a pardon for four members of the group who were convicted of a massacre in Iraq. The Department of Justice has said that 14 people were killed in the massacre, while Iraqi authorities say the total is 17.
The Blackwater employees were originally convicted in 2014 and were accused of launching an unprovoked attack on Iraqi citizens that included the use of sniper rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers. The four men, who are all veterans, were contracted by the State Department at the time, and their defense attorneys argued that they had only returned fire after being ambushed by Iraqi troops.
The decision to pardon the men was met with backlash.
Following the news that Trump had issued the pardons, the victims of the massacre spoke to NBC News about how upset they were by the decision.
"How are these criminals released after they killed 17 innocent people?" said Hussein Saheb Nasser, whose younger brother was killed by the Blackwater mercenaries.
Sarah Holewinski, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said that Trump's decision was an insult both to justice and to the victims. "After years of waiting, the victims finally saw justice served when these men were convicted," she told NBC via email. "With those sentences reversed by the stroke of a pen, who will trust the American justice system again?"
Erik Prince has been a strong supporter of President Trump.
Although he didn't have the same formal role inside Trump's administration as his sister, Prince has been an advocate for the president for years. Prince has been described as a "shadow adviser" to the president, and his name has been involved in several stories related both to the president and his foreign policy apparatus.
When the news of Trump's pardons first broke, news reports noted that they were explicitly connected both to Devos and Prince as one possible reason for the president's decision to issue them. During the transition in 2017, Prince also met with a Russian-backed banker in the Seychelles in order to discuss ways that Russia and the incoming Trump administration could cooperate with one another.
The meeting was investigated as part of a broader special counsel investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Now, as the president prepares to leave office, the news of his pardons for members of Blackwater will be just one small piece in his highly controversial legacy.