Donald Trump announced he will pardon conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza on Thursday, erasing his political ally’s May 2014 guilty plea to a campaign finance felony. The unexpected move comes a day after meeting with Kim Kardashian to discuss the importance of “prison reform and sentencing” and as several former Trump employees mull how to deal with their own legal issues stemming from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Trump made the announcement via a Thursday morning tweet, once again bypassing the longstanding process of vetting pardons and commutation petitions. The president’s only justification for the “full pardon” was his claim that D’Souza was somehow treated “unfairly.” In reality, he admitted to circumventing federal campaign finance limits by reimbursing associates for $20,000 worth of contributions made in their own names to Republican Wendy Long’s unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York — a felony.
Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
Like Trump, D’Souza earned his political fame and conservative bona fides by questioning the Americanness of Barack Obama. He is currently promoting a book which purportedly exposes “the Nazi roots of the American left.”
D’Souza marked the fourth living person to receive a pardon or commutation from Trump so far, joining fellow birther and political ally Joe Arpaio, convicted Justice-obstructer I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier. Each has had distinctly political undertones.
An array of government ethics and legal experts were quick to point out that the Dinesh pardon and others appear to be a signal to former employees that he will protect them from punishment if they protect him from Mueller’s investigation. Trump tweeted on Sunday of his concern for the “young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt.”
Imagine if Nixon had been waiting with a stack of pardons for his Plumbers to return from the Watergate break-in. A president may not be above the law, but he has the power to put his henchmen above the law. That’s what Trump is telling Manafort & others with the D'Souza pardon.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 31, 2018
Here's our statement from @daviddonnelly on the president pardoning D'Souza: "Every day Trump and his administration find a new way to degrade ethics and accountability in government." pic.twitter.com/DwpiluT7Rg
— Every Voice (@EveryVoice) May 31, 2018
Trump’s Dinesh D’Souza pardon today, on top of his pardons of Scooter Libby and Joe Arpaio, make sense only as an elephant-whistle to Michael Cohen & all who know damning things about Trump: protect me & I’ll have your back. Turn on me & your goose is cooked. More obstruction!
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) May 31, 2018
As a candidate, Trump famously vowed to “drain the swamp,” warning: “When the outcome is fixed, when the system is rigged, people lose hope. They detach. Our society becomes unplugged and unhinged. When the powerful can get away with anything, because they have the money and the connections to rig the system, then the laws lose their moral authority.”