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Trump Flexes His Pardoning Muscles

Dinesh D'Souza is a yes, Martha Stewart a maybe; may commute sentence of Blagojevich
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2018 9:20 AM CDT
Updated May 31, 2018 3:58 PM CDT
Trump Announces Surprise Pardon to Conservative Figure
A file photo of Martha Stewart.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

(Newser) – President Trump made big news Thursday through his power to issue pardons and commute sentences. First, he announced that he would issue a full pardon to conservative firebrand Dinesh D'Souza, who once pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations. Hours later came two higher-profile names: Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he might pardon Martha Stewart and free former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich from prison, reports the AP. Details and developments:

  • D'Souza: "He was treated very unfairly by our government!" Trump tweeted. In 2014, D'Souza received five years' probation and a $30,000 fine after prosecutors say he used "straw donors," reports the Washington Post. That is, prosecutors say he got people to donate money to the GOP New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012 with the understanding that he would reimburse them.
  • His background: The 57-year-old is a best-selling author and filmmaker who was one of President Obama's most vocal critics. He also went after Hillary Clinton frequently. See this trailer for his Hillary's America for a taste. He has a "penchant for trolling and needling liberals," writes Dylan Matthews in a profile at Vox. D'Souza has long maintained that he was prosecuted because of his politics, and he was gloating publicly at the expense of former US attorney Preet Bharara Thursday, notes the New York Post, which collects the related tweets.

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  • Blagojevich: The former Illinois governor is in the midst of a 14-year-sentence for corruption after being convicted of essentially trying to sell the open Senate seat of President-elect Obama. Trump downplayed the allegations. “If you look at what he said, he said something to the effect like, ‘What do I get?’" said Trump, per the Chicago Tribune. "Stupid thing to say." But Trump suggested that Blagojevich did nothing all that unusual for a politician and should not be in jail. "I don’t know him other than that he was on The Apprentice for a short period of time."
  • Stewart: She served 5 months in federal prison for obstruction of justice, making false statements, and conspiracy for lying to investigators in an insider trading case. CNN has all details of that case. “I think to a certain extent Martha Stewart was harshly and unfairly treated,” Trump said. “And she used to be my biggest fan in the world ... before I became a politician. But that’s okay, I don’t view it that way.”
  • Message? Mike Allen of Axios suggests an ulterior motive. "Intentionally or not, today’s flurry reminds people in (Robert) Mueller’s sights, who may be thinking about cooperating, about Trump’s pardon power."
  • So far: Trump is not waiting until late in his tenure to issue controversial pardons, as often happens. The AP has the list of pardons and their details: "Sheriff" Joe Arpaio, Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby, boxer Jack Johnson, and US sailor Kristian Saucier (who photographed classified portions of a submarine). Trump also has commuted the money laundering sentence of meat-packing exec Sholom Rubashkin.
Thanks to Kim Kardashian, Trump is considering another pardon as well. (Read more Dinesh D'Souza stories.)

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