Trump Pardons Right-Wing Provocateur Dinesh D’Souza

President Trump has issued another controversial pardon.

Keeping with his seeming habit of using the pardon power to make political points, President Trump announced today that he is pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, the far-right commentator who was convicted in 2014 of violating campaign finance laws:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative author, commentator and filmmaker, and said he was strongly considering commuting the sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat.

Flexing his clemency power as he and his team face multiple criminal investigations of their own, Mr. Trump also said that he was thinking about the case of Martha Stewart, the lifestyle mogul who spent five months in prison for lying to investigators about the timing of a stock sale.

The president was focusing on cases where he argued that the justice system had unfairly treated celebrity figures, all of whom were convicted of crimes that in some ways mirrored charges that have been made or mentioned in connection with allies of Mr. Trump in recent weeks, including campaign finance violations and lying to investigators.

All three have connections, if sometimes distant, to Mr. Trump, either through political allies or his time in the private sector. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who greeted Mr. Trump as he arrived for a visit to Houston on Thursday, pushed for the pardon for Mr. D’Souza. Mr. Blagojevich appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice,” Mr. Trump’s reality show, and Ms. Stewart hosted an “Apprentice” spinoff show.

Moreover, all three of the cases were tied to prosecutors who have become nemeses of the president. Mr. D’Souza was prosecuted by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in New York who was fired by Mr. Trump last year and has been one of his fiercest critics. Ms. Stewart was prosecuted by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director who was fired by Mr. Trump last year and has engaged in a running war of words ever since.

As for Mr. Blagojevich, he was prosecuted by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a close friend and colleague of Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump previously pardoned I. Lewis Libby Jr., a top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was also prosecuted by Mr. Fitzgerald.

Here’s Trump’s tweet announcing the pardon:

Not surprisingly, D’Souza is celebrating:

Dinesh D’Souza lashed out at former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Thursday after President Trump pardoned the conservative writer.

D’Souza in a tweet took aim at Bharara, the New York prosecutor who was behind D’Souza’s 2013 conviction for illegal campaign donations.

“KARMA IS A BITCH DEPT: @PreetBharara wanted to destroy a fellow Indian American to advance his career,” D’Souza tweeted.

“Then he got fired & I got pardoned,” he added.

n a second tweet, the author accused Bharara of forcing his confession on the illegal donation charge by threatening him with an unrelated charge that carried a prison term.

“Bharara & his goons bludgeoned me into the plea by threatening to add a second redundant charge carrying a prison term of FIVE YEARS,” he said.

D’Souza later expanded on his attacks on Bharara in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

“With regard to Preet Bharara, I see him with along with Eric Holder as part of this Obama team of goons that was unleashed to get me in retaliation for the movie I made about Obama,” he said.

“I think Bharara’s was that he would prove by getting a fellow Indian he would endear himself to the Obama team,” D’Souza added. “Preet Bharara got fired by Trump and I got pardoned, so that’s how it all ended up.”

Here are D’Souza’s tweets:

And here’s Bahara’s response:

This all began, of course, four years ago when D’Souza, who had made a name for himself in conservative circles for his anti-Obama films that hit all the hot buttons from allegations that the former President was secretly Muslim to drawing into question whether he was born in the United States, was indicted for violating Federal election laws. As the indictment alleged, D’Souza had convinced two associates to donate $10,000 each to the campaign of Wendy Long, the Republican running a seemingly unwinnable race against New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand in 2012, and then reimbursing them for the full amount of their donations out of his own pocket. In so doing, D’Souza was quite obviously evading the 40-year-old law that places monetary limits on the amount that an individual can donate to any one political candidate. Since there was no basis for rebutting the facts as alleged, D’Souza instead pursued a defense. In this manner, the indictment alleged, D’Souza was able to evade the 40-year-old law that limits the amount that an individual can contribute to a political candidate. For his part, D’Souza and his supporters, a group which quickly dwindled after he was indicted, claimed that the entire prosecution was an example of political targeting by the Obama Administration and that D’Souza was only being prosecuted because of his criticisms of the President over the past five years. When the efforts to provide any evidence to support that claim failed, D’Souza entered a guilty plea to the charges against him and was sentenced to eight months in probation and fined $30,000.

This isn’t the first pardon that President Trump has issued to someone who is both politically controversial and someone that conservative activists who have rallied behind. In August of last year, for example, he pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of contempt of court for refusing to comply with orders from a Federal District Court Judge regarding the operation of his department. Arpaio, of course, has since entered the race for the Republican nomination to succeed Jeff Flake in the Senate. Last month,  Trump pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former Chief of Staff to former Vice-President Dick Cheney who had been convicted of lying to investigators in connection with the Valerie Plame matter. Trump has also pardoned the late Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson who had been convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act in a prosecution that was obviously tainted by racism. While this pardon was not really political and seems justified by the facts, it’s worth noting that it came at the urging of celebrity supporters such as Sylvester Stallone who used their connection to Trump to urge the action.

The other issue that this pardon raises, of course, is the signal it sends to people who are currently in the radar of Special Counsel Robert Mueller or other Federal investigators such as Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort. Ever since the first charges were issued in connection with the Russia investigation, there has been speculation about whether or not Trump would utilize the pardon power to attempt to interfere with Mueller’s investigation by taking the threat of prosecution off their minds, thus making it less likely that they would cooperate with Mueller. This is especially relevant given the fact that one of Trump’s attorneys had dangled the possibility of pardons for Manafort and Flynn at some point last year. That attorney was John Dowd, who has since left the Trump legal team, but the possibility of Trump seeking to disrupt the investigation by taking this step remains on the table. What the consequences of such an action might be would have to wait until Trump actually acted, but even several Republican Senators have suggested it could be a last straw.

Commenting on the D’Souza pardon, Greg Sargent argues that Trump’s pardons to date have basically all been about right-wing trolling:

First, let’s put this in context. Trump’s previous pardons were granted to the authoritarian racistJoe Arpaio; Kristian Saucier, a sailor convicted in a case in which he photographed classified spaces on a submarine, who became a cause celebre on the right when conservatives tried to use him as an argument for why Hillary Clinton should be punished for having a private email server; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who revealed the name of a covert CIA operative in order to discredit her husband, a critic of the Bush administration; and the boxer Jack Johnson, whose case was championed by Sylvester Stallone.

In other words, with the exception of Johnson’s pardon — which Trump gave solely because a celebrity asked him to — all of his pardons were meant as favors to the right wing.

Sargent also reminds us of D’Souza’s long history:

D’Souza’s own story, in some ways, mirrors that of American conservatism over the past few decades. As a student at Dartmouth in the 1980s, he ran the conservative “Dartmouth Review,” a publication that reveled in being politically incorrect, which in its case meant publishing racist material and outing closeted gay students. Hailed as a rising conservative star, he obtained a sinecure at the Heritage Foundation, worked in the Reagan administration, and published books decrying liberalism’s effect on America. In 1991, this paper called him ”the polemical darling of the season.”

But as time went on, D’Souza’s ideas became increasingly conspiratorial and noxious. He wrote multiple books on Barack Obama, charging that the former president, driven by a need to punish white people for the sins of colonialism, had hatched a plan to destroy America. His latest book is titled “The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left,” in which he not only argues that Hitler took his inspiration from Democrats, but takes the fact that, during the 1860s, the Democratic Party was the conservative, slavery-supporting party — not exactly a secret, but a fact that he presents as though it’s a shocking discovery he just made — and spins it into a decades-long conspiracy proving that Democrats are The Real Racists.

(…)

  • In 2015, D’Souza tweeted a photo of Obama taking a selfie (horrors!) with the caption,
    “YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO…Watch this vulgar man show his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment.”
  • In his 1995 book “The End of Racism,” he argued that “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well,” and contended that given “black cultural pathology,” discrimination against African Americans is perfectly rational, even if it may be unfair to some people.
  • In his book “The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11,” he argued that al-Qaeda’s critique of America as a decadent nation was essentially correct, because liberals had corrupted our society with their desire for “America to be a shining beacon of global depravity, a kind of Gomorrah on a Hill.” Even conservatives recoiled at that one.
  • In 2010 he wrote that Obama was transforming NASA into some kind of anti-American recruiting tool. “No explanation other than anticolonialism makes sense of Obama’s curious mandate to convert a space agency into a Muslim and international outreach,” he wrote, concluding that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.”
  • He regularly spread racist memes about Obama.
  • He suggested that the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville was staged by liberals.
  • He rather weirdly insisted that “Hitler was NOT anti-gay.”
  • He compared those protesting police shootings of unarmed African Americans to ISIS.
  • He suggested that the media were engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the Las Vegas shooter was “an anti-Trump guy” (which he wasn’t).
  • He tweeted, “OVERRATED DEMOCRATS DEPT: So Rosa Parks wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus — that’s all she did, so what’s the big fuss?”
  • He spread the despicable and false theory that liberal billionaire George Soros, who escaped the Holocaust as a child, was actually a Nazi collaborator.

In other words, D’Souza has been a right-wing troll since he was in college and in the years that followed. He attempted to use that history as evidence that his 2014 prosecution was politically motivated and failed, so he ended up pleading guilty and receiving a light, but under the sentencing guidelines appropriate, sentence. Since he completed his sentence several years ago, he has gone back to his old ways of political trolling. Now, he’s been pardoned. You can expect we’ll be hearing more from him in the future. This is, after all, the age of Trump.

 

FILED UNDER: Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Well, Trump has sent a strong message to Cohen and Manafort–“Stick with me and I’ll pardon you”–but one to Comey as well. Peter Fitzgerald, one of Comey’s attorneys, prosecuted Blago. And Comey prosecuted Stewart. Preet Bharara, of course, prosecuted D’Souza.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Meanwhile someone somewhere spends decades in jail for selling pot.

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  3. Todd says:

    Of all the things that Donald Trump has done since he’s been in office, his abuse of the pardon power is probably the most explicit example of actions that the founders intended Congress’ impeachment power to provide a check against.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/07/donald-trump-pardon-power-congressional-impeachment/

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  4. James Pearce says:

    Donald Trump is a joke of a president. D’Souza? My God, that’s funny.

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  5. Kathy says:

    @Todd:

    I wouldn’t put any bets on that just yet. The people he’s pardoned or are in line for a pardon are either obscure (Scooter), or were convicted of relatively minor offenses (Stewart), and had mild sentences.

    If/when he pardons someone who’s being investigated in connection to the Mueller probe, and in particular before they plead to anything or are convicted, then that might cause enough outrage in the GOP establishment. But I wouldn’t count on these spineless cowards to do anything about it.

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  6. Todd says:

    @Kathy: I’m not saying that he will be impeached … and even if the Mueller report is worse (for Trump) than most can imagine, I think it’s almost a certainty that there will not be 67 Senators willing to convict.

    Unless he resigns, or dies (of natural causes) in office, the only way Donald Trump is likely going away is via electoral defeat in 2020, or retirement in 2024.

    But if we lived in a country that actually cared about constitutional checks and balances and the rule of law, there’s already plenty of justification for impeachment … and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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  7. Hal_10000 says:

    @CSK:

    I think that implies more thought than is going on. He’s also talking about pardoning Governor Blago, a Democrat. I think the operational theory here is that he sees something on Fox News and makes snap decisions based on it. Or hears that someone he likes (Blago was on celebrity apprentice) has been punished and acts on it. It’s vile and corrupt but there’s no plan behind it.

    When deciding between nefariousness and stupidity with Trump, always bet on stupidity.

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  8. wr says:

    Of course the one thing that ties almost all of his pardons and hinted pardons together — they’re for celebrities. Celebrity buddies of his, in the case of Martha Stewart (who hosted a season of The Apprentice) and Blago, who was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice.

    I’m sure someone smarter in the White House is playing all these chess games. Trump is just pardoning those people who can do no wrong — famous people.

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  9. An Interested Party says:

    It’s nice to see the Orange Blob pardoning people who are as repulsive and disgusting as he is…it really takes a certain kind of trash to dismiss Rosa Parks and level an anti-Semitic lie at George Soros while also whining about Obama’s “goons”…

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  10. TM01 says:

    Keeping with his seeming habit of using the pardon power to make political points,

    Wow. Another first by Trump.

    I guess the only really new thing Trump is doing is not waiting until the final days of his presidency to issue pardons in exchange for millions of dollars.

    Seriously tho, I’m sickened by anyone who would criticize the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.

    And you can quote me on that. That’s a totally original statement from me.

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  11. Kathy says:

    @Todd:

    You know, if he showed a bit of foresight, I’d worry that, if reelected in 2020 (perish the thought), he wouldn’t retire in 2024.

    No, I don’t think he could get an amendment to change or eliminate the term limits at the White House. That’s a tall order and would take years, if it can pass at all. But he might figure out some other, highly illegal, way to accomplish that. He has as much contempt for the rule of law, when it applies to him, as for the norms of civilization.

    If he retires in 2024, he’ll spend the rest of his life tweeting how unfair it is to be forcibly removed after only two terms.Hopefully he’ll be gone by January 2021, if not sooner.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I know. But, as I pointed out, the prosecutor who nailed Blago is a Comey guy.

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  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: Let’s just hope Trump continues stuffing his face with junk food and continues to fail to exercise.

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  14. al Ameda says:

    @CSK:

    Well, Trump has sent a strong message to Cohen and Manafort–“Stick with me and I’ll pardon you”–but one to Comey as well. Peter Fitzgerald, one of Comey’s attorneys, prosecuted Blago. And Comey prosecuted Stewart. Preet Bharara, of course, prosecuted D’Souza.

    THIS. As we know, and he he has demonstrated in purging as much evidence of the Obama presidency as he can, Trump is extremely petty and malevolent, he is all about evening scores.

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  15. MBunge says:

    Keep on pluckin’ that chicken.

    Mike

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  16. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: All you’re doing is choking yours.

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy:

    If/when he pardons someone who’s being investigated in connection to the Mueller probe, and in particular before they plead to anything or are convicted, then that might cause enough outrage in the GOP establishment.

    Ain’t never gonna happen. Cinco de Mayo in December is more like it.

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  18. Grewgills says:

    @Hal_10000:

    When deciding between nefariousness and stupidity with Trump, always bet on stupidity.

    I generally bet on nefarious stupidity.

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  19. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m concerned Benito the Cheeto may not be getting enough cheese in his diet. Those slices of over-processed yellow cheese are notoriously thin. You need two just to taste them. He should have four for every beef patty. Failing that, he should double the number of cheeseburgers per night, and have two or three more throughout the day, just to make sure.

    I am sure he gets plenty of exercise, though. Have you seen how big his signature is? The pen doesn’t move itself. That burns 35,000 calories, easy.

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  20. CSK says:

    @Grewgills:

    And it would be a good bet. The most vindictive people in the world are the nefariously, malevolently stupid. Trump is their king.

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  21. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    There already is plenty of outrage in the Republican establishment. It’s just that a bunch of rabbits can’t do much against the big, bad wolf of irrational popularity other than crap themselves on the spot.

    If the GOP had a spine, they would have refused to support Trump’s campaign. I suppose when the bill is due they’ll claim they were sure he was going to lose.

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  22. Hal_10000 says:

    @CSK:

    Yep. I’m sure that played a role in some part of Trump’s fetid brain.

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  23. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kathy:

    If/when he pardons someone who’s being investigated in connection to the Mueller probe, and in particular before they plead to anything or are convicted, then that might cause enough outrage in the GOP establishment. But I wouldn’t count on these spineless cowards to do anything about it

    I doubt it. Unless Trump begins to pardon people that really deserve pardon(Like PoC with large drug sentences) the GOP establishment wont care.

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  24. Lit3Bolt says:

    HEIL HITLER!

    I canz haz pardonz nw?

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  25. Franklin says:

    To Mr. Bharara: being fired by Trump is a badge of honor.

    D’Souza sounds only slightly more mature than his benefactor.

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  26. michilines says:

    @CSK:

    Well, Trump has sent a strong message to Cohen and Manafort–“Stick with me and I’ll pardon you”–but one to Comey as well. Peter Fitzgerald, one of Comey’s attorneys, prosecuted Blago. And Comey prosecuted Stewart. Preet Bharara, of course, prosecuted D’Souza.

    From the NYT in Doug’s post:

    Moreover, all three of the cases were tied to prosecutors who have become nemeses of the president. Mr. D’Souza was prosecuted by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in New York who was fired by Mr. Trump last year and has been one of his fiercest critics. Ms. Stewart was prosecuted by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director who was fired by Mr. Trump last year and has engaged in a running war of words ever since.

    As for Mr. Blagojevich, he was prosecuted by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a close friend and colleague of Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump previously pardoned I. Lewis Libby Jr., a top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was also prosecuted by Mr. Fitzgerald.

    If I were your tutor, I would suggest citing your sources and getting the names right (Patrick not Peter). If I were your editor, I would suggest refraining from commenting without reading the post. That you got some responses to this comment goes to show how many people don’t really read the posts and just comment.

    The most vindictive people in the world are the nefariously, malevolently stupid.

    Hmmmm. Another seemingly self-reflective comment.

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