WASHINGTON — President Trump pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza for making illegal campaign contributions Thursday — and said he was considering presidential clemency of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart as well.
"Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D'Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!" Trump tweeted Thursday as he headed to Texas on Air Force One.
While in flight, he told reporters that Blagojevich's attempt to sell former President Barack Obama's Illinois Senate seat when he became president was "a stupid thing to say" but not worth 18 years in prison. Blagojevich, a Democrat, appeared on Trump's reality television show Celebrity Apprentice in 2010.
And he said a pardon of Stewart had also crossed his mind. Stewart, the head of a publishing and television empire who once hosted a spinoff of The Apprentice, was convicted of insider trading in 2004.
"I think to a certain extent Martha Stewart was harshly and unfairly treated. And she used to be my biggest fan in the world — before I became a politician," he said. "But that’s O.K. I don’t view it that way."
Trump said he called D'Souza, who is serving five years probation for making illegal campaign contributions, to give him the news Wednesday night.
"I’ve always felt he was very unfairly treated. And a lot of people did," he said. "What they did to him was horrible.”
Trump said he didn't know D'Souza, but "I see him on television.”
On Twitter, D'Souza lashed out at Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted him and was later fired by Trump.
"KARMA IS A *****," D'Souza said. He accused Bharara of destroying him to advance his career.
"Then he got fired & I got pardoned," he said. "Obama & his stooges tried to extinguish my American dream & destroy my faith in America."
D'Souza credited a social media campaign and the intervention of Sen. Ted Cruz — a family friend — in bringing the case to Trump's attention.
D'Souza pleaded guilty of making "straw donations" in the names of others to support the candidacy of Republican New York Senate candidate Wendy Long, who lost to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Those straw donations allowed him to give $20,000 in illegal contributions to the campaign, exceeding the $5,000 legal limit.
And though he once argued that he was being selectively prosecuted because of his attacks on Obama, he later backed off the claim at his sentencing.
"I'm sorry for what I did. I have never said otherwise," he said then. "I have never even said I am being selectively prosecuted. I feared that I was being."
The new round of pardons would continue Trump's use of clemency power to correct what he perceives as unjust, politically motivated prosecutions. But they also come amid investigations into his own campaign and inner circle — including a probe into whether his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, violated the law when he illegally paid off a porn star who said she had a relationship with Trump.
Rick Hasen, a University of California, Irvine law professor who specializes in election law, said the pardon sends "yet another signal to Michael Cohen and others about the possibility of a Trump pardon — and this one, like potentially Cohen’s case — involves campaign finance violations."
The pardon marks the fifth full pardon granted by Trump during his presidency — all without going through the formal channels of the Justice Department. And it continues a pattern of politically motivated pardons that include former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Bush White House aide Scooter Libby.
Trump also pardoned Kristian Saucier, a former Navy submariner whose conviction for mishandling classified information became a conservative cause because of its comparisons to Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.
And just last week, Trump gave a rare posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the former heavyweight boxing champion convicted in 1913 of racially motivated charges related to his relationship with a white woman.
Some of these I can get behind, and others I can't. Blagojevich is pretty much inexcusable, considering he tried to profit off his position.
Says a lot about Trump, if he thinks he was unfairly treated. (Otoh, maybe his point was, he was attacked by rivals for "politics as usual". In that case, yeah, he was "unfairly" treated. This view also means our government is unsalvageable and we're all ****ed.)
You shouldn’t break the rules just because the other side does it. If you do, you lose all moral high ground to stand on and dialogue. Why? Becuase youre as much a piece a shit as the other side you claimed to be bad.
Often times a conservative commentator and debater. Showed up on some news sites delivering the smackdown in some arguments. Wrote books. Called out Obama.
So he became an enemy of the Dems and he was stupid enough to violate campaign donation laws. I still don't quite understand what he exactly did and I can even recite the charge. In other words, I don't understand campaign finance regulations enough to see what he did was a criminal offense. Seems like a fine, at worst, was in order. But he got convicted and sentenced to a halfway house (lol...like a crack addict).