President Donald Trump said Thursday he plans to issue a pardon to Dinesh D’Souza, a prominent conservative commentator and filmmaker who was convicted of making an illegal campaign contribution.
Trump said he will pardon D’Souza on Thursday, adding that D’Souza “was treated very unfairly by our government!”
Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to reimbursing two of his associates after directing them to contribute $10,000 each to the 2012 Senate campaign of Wendy Long. He also admitted that he knew what he was doing violated the law.
At the time D’Souza made his contributions, the Federal Election Campaign Act prohibited individual citizens from donating more than $5,000 to a single candidate.
Then-U.S. attorney Preet Bharara announced D’Souza’s conviction at the time.
“Dinesh D’Souza attempted to illegally contribute over $10,000 to a Senate campaign, wilfully undermining the integrity of the campaign finance process,” Bharara said. “Like many others before him, of all political stripes, he has had to answer for this crime – here with a felony conviction.”
Bharara was fired by Trump shortly after Trump took office in 2017, and has since become an occasionally vocal critic of the president.
In a tweet, he defended the lawsuit and conviction against D’Souza in a response to Trump’s announcement to grant the pardon.
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. https://t.co/bA3I8vs4QQ via @politico
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) May 31, 2018
In his 2016 film, “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” D’Souza implied that his felony conviction was a politically motivated attack by the government in retaliation for an earlier film of his about the Obama administration, according to The New York Times’ review of the film.
The right-wing firebrand was heavily criticized in February for mocking the students who survived the mass shooting in a Parkland, Fla. high school that left 17 students and adults dead a week earlier. He later apologized, saying his tweet “was insensitive to students who lost friends in a terrible tragedy.”
Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs https://t.co/Vg3mXYvb4c
— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 20, 2018
After pleading guilty, D’Souza was sentenced to spend an eight-hour day each week in community service as part of a five-year probationary term, according to the Southern District of New York. He also had to attend weekly counseling sessions and pay a $30,000 fine.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, an ally of both Trump and D’Souza, applauded Trump’s decision in a tweet of his own.
Bravo! @realDonaldTrump Dinesh was the subject of a political prosecution, brazenly targeted by the Obama administration bc of his political views. And he’s a powerful voice for freedom, systematically dismantling the lies of the Left—which is why they hate him. This is Justice. https://t.co/cGHzcgwSnK
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 31, 2018
The president has used his pardon power five other times since taking office, including the controversial pardoning of former Sheriff Joseph Arpaio in August 2017.
Arpaio, who had campaigned for Trump, had come under fire for the treatment of prisoners in Maricopa County jails. The law enforcement officer, who bragged of being “America’s toughest sheriff,” was convicted of contempt of court in Arizona.
In April, the president also pardoned Scooter Libby, a former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney who had been convicted of obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury.
Trump’s most recent pardon was granted posthumously to Jack Johnson, who was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for violating a law prohibiting the transport of women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Trump’s planned pardon of D’Souza.
D’Souza did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.