WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said that he would give a full pardon to Dinesh D’Souza, the political commentator, author, and filmmaker who plead guilty in 2014 to a felony campaign finance violation.
“Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning.
D’Souza made the movie “2016: Obama’s America” in 2012 and followed it up with “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.” In the latter movie, he portrayed himself as the victim of political retribution. Overall, his projects tend to espouse conspiratorial motives and theories from those on the right. “Hillary’s America” grossed $13 million at the domestic box office — healthy returns in the documentary category.
In February, he apologized for a flippant tweet about a photo of emotional students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who were witnessing a vote against an assault weapons ban by Florida lawmakers. In the tweet, D’Souza said that it was the “worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs.” He later said that the tweet was aimed “at media manipulation” but was “insensitive to students who lost friends in a terrible tragedy. I’m truly sorry.”
His conviction was for making illegal campaign contributions to a New York Senate candidate Wendy Long, and he was sentenced to five years probation and eight months in a community confinement center in San Diego.
At his sentencing, D’Souza told the judge in the case that he regretted breaking the law, but he has argued in interviews since then, and in the “Hillary’s America” documentary, that he was selectively targeted for prosecution.
He was charged with making “straw donations” to the candidate, in which he directed individuals to make contributions to Long’s campaign and he would agree to reimburse them, flouting campaign finance limits.
Preet Bharara, who was U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York at the time, wrote on Twitter, “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.”
D’Souza immediately retweeted Trump’s announcement.
“Obama & his stooges tried to extinguish my American dream & destroy my faith in America. Thank you
@realDonaldTrump for fully restoring both,” he wrote.
“My heartfelt thanks to those who prayed for me, supported me & reached out on social media to President Trump to pardon me.”
He later responded to Bharara, tweeting, “Bharara & his goons bludgeoned me into the plea by threatening to add a second redundant charge carrying a prison term of FIVE YEARS. KARMA IS A BITCH DEPT:
@PreetBharara wanted to destroy a fellow Indian American to advance his career. Then he got fired & I got pardoned.”\
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump felt that D’Souza was “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.”
Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah was asked by reporters whether the pardon was made at the recommendation of the Justice Department. “I am not getting into process, but what I will say is the president has the constitutional authority.”