Sat, Jun 02, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Trump pardons author; Martha Stewart next?

CLINTON CRITIC:Dinesh D’Souza, who was in 2014 sentenced to five years of probation for his illegal campaign contributions, thanked Trump on Twitter


US President Donald Trump on Thursday pardoned a firebrand conservative author and signaled that similar clemency could be on the way for lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, the latest in a series of controversial pardons by the president.

Before pardoning Dinesh D’Souza — a caustic critic of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who was convicted of campaign finance violations — Trump tweeted that the author and filmmaker had been treated “very unfairly” by the government.

Trump later said he was also considering commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, a former Illinois governor jailed for corruption, and Stewart, the celebrity chef jailed for five months in 2004 and 2005 for making false statements in an insider trading case.

Stewart once hosted a spin-off version of Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice, while Trump noted that Blagojevich — a Democrat — had appeared on the celebrity version of the show.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump complained that Stewart had been “harshly and unfairly treated.”

“She used to be my biggest fan in the world ... before I became a politician,” he said.

The latest figure to receive a pardon, D’Souza, was fined US$30,000 and sentenced in September 2014 to five years of probation for making illegal campaign contributions.

The 57-year-old was “in the president’s opinion, a victim of selective prosecution for violations of campaign finance laws,” the White House said in a statement.

“Mr D’Souza accepted responsibility for his actions,” it said. “In light of these facts, the president has determined that Mr D’Souza is fully worthy of this pardon.”

D’Souza pleaded guilty to attempting to donate US$20,000 to a Senate campaign through straw donors.

He also personally contributed US$10,000 to the campaign of Republican Wendy Long, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in New York in 2012 — twice the legal limit for individual contributions at the time.

D’Souza took to Twitter to thank Trump.

“Obama & his stooges tried to extinguish my American dream & destroy my faith in America,” he said. “Thank you @realDonaldTrump for fully restoring both.”

D’Souza’s 2010 book The Roots of Obama’s Rage was made into a film, 2016: Obama’s America, which was popular with conservative groups.

He also made a documentary about Clinton — Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.

Regarding Blagojevich, Trump said he was considering commuting his sentence, which he described as “really unfair” punishment for “foolish” behavior.

Blagojevich was impeached as governor of Illinois in 2009 and sentenced in December 2011 to 14 years in prison for corruption, including trying to sell the Illinois Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

“Plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse,” Trump said. “He shouldn’t have been put in jail.”

Blagojevich was fired by Trump in episode four of the 2010 season of The Celebrity Apprentice.

D’Souza claimed before pleading guilty that he had been targeted for prosecution because of his anti-Obama views.

Judge Richard Berman dismissed the bias claims.

“The defendant’s claim of selective prosecution, legally speaking, is all hat, no cattle,” Berman said.

Former US attorney Preet Bharara defended D’Souza’s conviction.

“The President has the right to pardon, but the facts are these,” Bharara said. “D’Souza intentionally broke the law, voluntarily pled guilty, apologized for his conduct and the judge found no unfairness.”

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