File photo of Dinesh D’Souza as he speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon Indian American conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza is being strongly criticized in New York, with New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood describing it as thwarting the cause of justice, write Yoshita Singh and Lalit K. Jha.
Trump, May 31, pardoned D’Souza, who was sentenced to five years of probation in 2014 for violating federal campaign laws.
“Trump’s latest pardon makes crystal clear his willingness to use his pardon power to thwart the cause of justice, rather than advance it. By pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, President Trump is undermining the rule of law by pardoning a political supporter who is an unapologetic convicted felon,” Underwood said in a statement.
The president, who has never met D’Souza or spoken to him, last night called him on the phone to inform him about his decision. Trump said he spoke to D’Souza “for three minutes last night…he almost had a heart attack.
Referring to previous pardons by Trump, Underwood said “we can’t afford to wait to see who will be next.”
Underwood called on lawmakers to act now to close New York’s double jeopardy loophole and ensure that anyone who evades federal justice by virtue of a politically expedient pardon can be held accountable if they violate New York law.
In April, the Attorney General’s office sent a letter to state lawmakers urging them to close a loophole in New York’s double jeopardy law. Closing the loophole would ensure that individuals who broke New York law could not evade accountability for any state crimes as a result of a strategically-timed pardon by the president.
The New York Times, in a scathing editorial on Trump’s pardon of D’Souza, said the president “uses whatever power he has to attack the people he feels have wronged him, and he will do what he feels he must to protect himself. For him, pardons are a means of vengeance.”
The editorial titled “Dinesh D’Souza? Really? said the message that can be taken from Trump’s executive clemency is that “maybe the president is sending a signal of loyalty and reassurance to friends and family members who may soon find themselves facing similar criminal charges in connection with the special counsel’s Russia inquiry.”
Trump Pardons Indian American Scholar Dinesh D’Souza
Trump said D’Souza was treated very unfairly.
D’Souza was, in the president’s opinion, a victim of selective prosecution for violations of campaign finance laws, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
“Mr. D’Souza accepted responsibility for his actions, and also completed community service by teaching English to citizens and immigrants seeking citizenship. In light of these facts, the president has determined that Mr. D’Souza is fully worthy of this pardon,” Sanders said in a statement.
“I’ve always felt he was very unfairly treated. And a lot of people did, a lot of people did. What should have been a quick minor fine, like everybody else with the election stuff…what they did to him was horrible,” Trump said.
Mumbai-born D’Souza, 57, is the author of several New York Times bestseller books.
In 2012 his movie ‘2016: Obama’s America’s’ which was based on his anti-Obama book became the second-highest-grossing political documentary film produced in the U.S.
D’Souza, who comes from a Roman Catholic family from Goa, had launched a campaign against both Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
He is a big supporter of Trump. In a new video, released this week, D’Souza ripped apart “the false narrative that Democrats are the ‘anti-fascist’ party.” His latest book ‘Big Lie’ is based on this.
The Indian American did not immediately comment on the presidential pardon, excepting retweeting Trump’s tweet in this regard.
In 2014, D’Souza had pleaded guilty in federal court for using a straw donor to making an illegal contribution to a 2012 Senate campaign. He was thereafter sentenced to eight months in a halfway house near his home in San Diego and five years of probation.
He is the author of nearly 20 books and producer of four movies, with the latest one being ‘Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party’.
Top Indian American attorney Preet Bharara had opposed the pardon.
“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,” Bharara said in a tweet.