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Donald Trump

Donald Trump to pardon conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza for campaign finance violations

This marks the latest instance of the US president’s deviating from the normal pardon process and could precede a pardon for TV personality Martha Stewart and a commuted sentence for ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 11:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2018, 11:12am

US President Donald Trump has said he would offer a full pardon to conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating federal campaign finance laws but later said he was targeted for his conservative views.

“Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “He was treated very unfairly by our government!”

Trump also said he was considering commuting the sentence of ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and pardoning Martha Stewart.

The Democratic former governor began serving his 14-year prison sentence on corruption convictions in 2012. His scheduled release date is 2024. Blagojevich was also a contestant on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice reality television show in 2010.

Stewart, the businesswoman famous for her lifestyle brand, served a five-month prison sentence and five months of house arrest for lying to federal investigators about a stock sale. Stewart had an Apprentice spinoff show.

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Trump said she “used to be one of my biggest fans”.

The D’Souza pardon would mark the latest instance of Trump deviating from the normal pardon process.

Generally, those seeking pardons must wait five years from the date they are released from confinement before becoming eligible, and they must apply to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

D’Souza does not have an application on file, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

Critics blasted the pardon as politically motivated — and a signal to former aides and associates charged in the federal Russia investigation that Trump is willing to offer a helping hand.

“Dinesh D’Souza pled guilty to violating campaign law; funneling cash to a GOP campaign,” VoteVets, a left-leaning group aiming to support veterans’ public office bids, tweeted.

“Trump’s pardon doesn’t just signal Manafort and others that they’ll get one, but foreign regimes that they too can break laws to help Trump.

“We didn’t serve to see our vote attacked this way,” the group said.

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D’Souza, an author and filmmaker, was indicted on charges that he illegally used straw donors — people who contribute to campaigns with other people’s money — in 2012.

Prosecutors said D’Souza had other individuals donate money to the campaign of Wendy Long, a Republican challenging New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012, under the agreement that D’Souza would reimburse them for the donations.

He was sentenced to five years of probation, including eight months living under supervision in a “community confinement centre” in San Diego, and a US$30,000 fine.

Last year, D’Souza claimed he was targeted by former US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office because he was a prominent critic of then-president Barack Obama and a prominent conservative activist.

In 2012, D’Souza released a movie titled 2016: Obama’s America, which took a highly critical view of Obama’s allegedly radical roots.

D’Souza will be the latest in a string of high-profile pardons Trump has offered since taking office.

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Others who have pardons include Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff, who was held in criminal contempt for ignoring a court order related to detention of immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally; and Kristian Saucier, a former Navy sailor convicted of unauthorised retention of national defence information.

Also among their numbers are Lewis “Scooter” Libby, an ex-chief of staff to former vice-president Dick Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the leak of a CIA officer’s identity; and Jack Johnson, boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, convicted of a Jim Crow-era law.

Trump’s announcement about D’Souza came a day after reality television star and socialite, Kim Kardashian West, visited the White House to lobby Trump and his staff to pardon Alice Marie Johnson, 63, a grandmother serving a life sentence for nonviolent drug offenses.

 Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Associated Press