- President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday he will pardon the conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza.
- D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to campaign finance fraud, after he illegally used straw donors to contribute to a political candidate.
- He argued at the time that he was being singled out by prosecutors for his political views.
- D’Souza’s pardon would be the fifth Trump has granted since taking office.
President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced on Thursday that he is granting a pardon to Dinesh D’Souza, the far-right author and pundit who was convicted of campaign finance fraud and has become a vocal Trump supporter.
“Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today,” Trump tweeted. “He was treated very unfairly by our government!”
D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to illegally using straw donors in 2012 to donate to a Republican Senate candidate in New York. He used the straw donors to funnel his funds to the candidate under their names to try and get around campaign finance laws.
Though D’Souza fully admitted to knowingly violating the law, he lashed out at prosecutors at the time, arguing he was being singled out because of his conservative beliefs.
The White House on Thursday appeared to back up D’Souza’s complaint. The White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah,told CNN that D’Souza was “an individual who has made restitution and accepted responsibility for his actions,” and that “many believe he was subject of selective prosecution.”
Though he was spared prison time, D’Souza was sentenced to five years of probation and a $US30,000 fine. A pardon would relieve D’Souza of any remaining punishments stemming from his conviction, and would restore certain rights, such as his right to vote.
D’Souza took to Twitter later on Thursday morning to thank Trump for the pardon and blast the Obama administration for prosecuting him.
“Obama & his stooges tried to extinguish my American dream & destroy my faith in America. Thank you @realDonaldTrump for fully restoring both,” he said. “My heartfelt thanks to those who prayed for me, supported me & reached out on social media to President Trump to pardon me.”
D’Souza has garnered attention in recent years for pushing far-right conspiracy theories on Twitter and in the media. Most recently, he tweeted skeptically of survivors of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, saying they appeared “coached” and that their “politically orchestrated grief” appeared “phony & inauthentic.”
D’Souza’s pardon would be the fifth Trump has granted since taking office, many of which have gone to his political allies after shoring up significant support for their cases among fellow conservatives.
Last August, Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the bombastic ex-sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who was convicted of criminal contempt for violating a court order for his department to stop racially profiling Latinos. Arpaio was a vocal Trump supporter throughout the 2016 campaign, and often parroted Trump’s hardline stance on immigration.
In March, Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, a former Navy sailor who took photos of classified areas inside a nuclear submarine. Saucier’s case was widely cited among conservative media, who compared his case to Hillary Clinton, who used a private email server while she was secretary of state but wasn’t prosecuted.
Trump also pardoned “Scooter” Libby, the former Bush official convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, and last week, Trump granted a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the American heavyweight boxing champion who was convicted of taking his white girlfriend across state lines in 1913, and died in 1946. Johnson’s case was recommended to Trump by the actor Sylvester Stallone, who was in the Oval Office when Trump signed the pardon.
Kim Kardashian West visited Trump in the Oval Office on Wednesday to discuss prison and sentencing reform, and encourage him to grant Alice Marie Johnson a sentence commutation. Trump hasn’t said anything about the 63-year-old grandmother’s case yet.