Trump pardons Dinesh D'Souza -- and hints at more celebrity pardons

President Donald Trump announced unexpectedly Thursday that he is ...

Posted: May 31, 2018 5:59 PM
Updated: May 31, 2018 5:59 PM

President Donald Trump announced unexpectedly Thursday that he is granting a full pardon to Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative author and filmmaker who pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws in 2014 after he was indicted earlier that year on charges that he illegally used straw donors to contribute to Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long in New York in 2012.

"Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D'Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!" Trump tweeted.

Trump, who signed the paperwork formally pardoning D'Souza before announcing it on Twitter, had never met or spoken with D'Souza before this week. He told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday that he called him for the first time Wednesday night to inform him that he would be pardoning him. The two spoke for nearly three minutes, according to the President.

"He almost had a heart attack," Trump said.

In a tweet celebrating his pardon, D'Souza said "(President Barack) Obama & his stooges tried to extinguish my American dream & destroy my faith in America. Thank you @realDonaldTrump for fully restoring both(.)"

Though Trump said no one had asked him to pardon D'Souza, a source familiar with how things unfolded told CNN that Sen. Ted Cruz, among others, personally lobbied him to consider doing so.

D'Souza's wife confirmed Cruz's role on Twitter.

"I want to thank @realDonaldTrump for giving my husband a pardon but I particularly want to thank @SenTedCruz for putting it on his radar and helping make it happen! So grateful!" Debbie D'Souza tweeted.

The official White House statement on D'Souza's pardon said he was, in the President's opinion, "a victim of selective prosecution for violations of campaign finance laws."

"Mr. D'Souza accepted responsibility for his actions, and also completed community service by teaching English to citizens and immigrants seeking citizenship. In light of these facts, the President has determined that Mr. D'Souza is fully worthy of this pardon," the statement said.

Trump said Thursday that he is also considering pardoning Martha Stewart and pardoning or commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Both were stars with Trump on NBC's "The Apprentice" franchise.

The President told reporters that Blagojevich had said something "stupid" but that it was similar to what other politicians have said and called the 18-year sentence "really unfair." He added that "plenty of other politicians could have said a lot worse."

D'Souza was sentenced to five years of probation, including eight months living under supervision in a halfway house and a $30,000 fine.

"I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids," D'Souza had said at his plea hearing. "I deeply regret my conduct."

D'Souza is a contentious figure who once accused then-President Barack Obama of adopting "the cause of anti-colonialism" from his Kenyan father in a 2010 Forbes magazine cover story when Obama was in office. In the piece, he referred to Obama's father as a "philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions." He also once argued that Adolf Hitler was not "anti-gay."

"Dinesh D'Souza is an individual who, you know, has made restitution and accepted responsibility for his actions, but these are infractions and crimes that are rarely prosecuted, and many believe that he was the subject of some selective prosecution from the previous administration," White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said on Fox News Thursday.

"Nonetheless, he's accepted responsibility and the President believes it's appropriate that he receive a pardon after community service, paying a fine, and doing other things that the judge has required," Shah said.

D'Souza once called on comedienne Rosie O'Donnell to be prosecuted for violating campaign finance laws in a fashion similar to his case.

A Justice Department spokesperson confirmed Thursday that Trump's pardon of D'Souza did not go through the department's Office of Pardon Attorney.

In the past, the Office of the Pardon Attorney has assisted the White House on clemency petitions -- though it is not constitutionally required.

Fox News host and former judge Jeanine Pirro called D'Souza's pardon "fantastic news."

"Obama's political prosecution null and void," she added.

Preet Bharara, who brought charges against D'Souza when he was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, asserted that there was no unfairness in the case.

"The President has the right to pardon but the facts are these: D'Souza intentionally broke the law, voluntarily pled guilty, apologized for his conduct & the judge found no unfairness. The career prosecutors and agents did their job. Period," Bharara, a CNN senior legal analyst, tweeted, along with a link to D'Souza's guilty plea.

Though past presidents have waited until the end of their term for controversial pardons, Trump has granted clemency to four people during his first 16 months in office. His pardons include former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in an investigation into leaking the identity of a CIA officer, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt in a case related to his hard-line tactics with undocumented immigrants.

The President did not use the Office of the Pardon Attorney for the pardons for Arpaio or Libby.

Trump was visibly irked last month when a reporter asked if he would consider a pardon for Michael Cohen, his longtime attorney who is now under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations.

"Stupid question," Trump responded.

Huntsville
Scattered Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 93°
Florence
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 94°
Fayetteville
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 87°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
87° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Scottsboro
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 94°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12486232
Mobile9420204
Montgomery6449148
Madison516130
Tuscaloosa405769
Baldwin338023
Unassigned319060
Shelby316432
Marshall306034
Lee258844
Morgan229517
Etowah204128
DeKalb174513
Calhoun167213
Elmore167238
Walker149864
Houston134812
Dallas130523
St. Clair128915
Russell12772
Limestone126113
Franklin123820
Cullman118912
Colbert114113
Lauderdale112315
Autauga105021
Escambia104416
Talladega96713
Jackson9244
Tallapoosa84179
Chambers83538
Dale80223
Blount7593
Butler75635
Chilton7456
Coffee7365
Covington71620
Pike6877
Lowndes56724
Barbour5655
Marion56224
Marengo53614
Clarke4949
Hale46426
Bullock45011
Winston44011
Perry4364
Wilcox41410
Bibb4134
Monroe4084
Randolph39410
Conecuh37810
Pickens3779
Sumter36018
Lawrence3321
Macon32013
Washington32012
Crenshaw3123
Choctaw27712
Cherokee2587
Greene24911
Henry2493
Geneva2480
Clay2375
Lamar2122
Fayette1835
Cleburne1251
Coosa1012
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 116350

Reported Deaths: 1186
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby22212300
Davidson20001211
Rutherford629853
Hamilton588449
Knox429837
Williamson340525
Sumner331672
Unassigned30368
Out of TN283116
Wilson219023
Bradley181712
Montgomery181513
Sevier17916
Putnam167716
Trousdale15786
Robertson150619
Hamblen134614
Blount12229
Maury11597
Tipton11559
Washington11312
Madison98415
Bedford90111
Sullivan89512
Hardeman85815
Macon85513
Lake7650
Loudon7053
Bledsoe6861
Dickson6521
Fayette6528
Anderson6516
Gibson6444
Dyer5937
Cheatham5697
Lawrence5276
Jefferson5253
Henderson5172
Rhea5171
McMinn50920
Obion4904
Coffee4823
Warren4794
Carter4735
Lauderdale4558
Hardin4447
Cocke4392
Haywood4356
Smith4294
Roane4232
Greene4187
Hawkins4167
Cumberland3986
Monroe3979
Giles36913
Weakley3633
McNairy3515
DeKalb3312
Franklin3024
Marshall2753
Carroll2723
Lincoln2681
Crockett2534
Henry2480
Hickman2480
White2465
Claiborne2420
Campbell2291
Johnson2250
Wayne2242
Marion2134
Chester2062
Grainger1890
Decatur1883
Polk1853
Overton1551
Unicoi1480
Union1410
Cannon1360
Benton1261
Humphreys1183
Jackson1121
Scott1100
Grundy1082
Sequatchie1000
Meigs990
Morgan981
Fentress790
Hancock771
Perry770
Stewart740
Clay710
Lewis671
Houston560
Moore550
Van Buren350
Pickett301

Community Events