President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he was granting a pardon to conservative author Dinesh D'Souza, who plead guilty in 2014 to a scheme where he reimbursed people for donating to a U.S. Senate campaign, which is illegal under federal campaign law.
"I never met him, I called him last night first time I’ve ever spoken to him," the President told reporters on Air Force One. "I said I’m pardoning you. Nobody asked me to do it.”
Mr. Trump also told reporters that he was considering other pardons as well, for Martha Stewart, and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of basically trying to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama.
"And he’s a Democrat. He’s not my party. But I thought that he was treated unfairly," Mr. Trump added.
"Dinesh D’Souza attempted to illegally contribute over $10,000 to a Senate campaign, willfully undermining the integrity of the campaign finance process," said Preet Bharara, who was then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
"Like many others before him, of all political stripes, he has had to answer for this crime – here with a felony conviction," said Bharara, who was later fired by President Trump.
"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," Bharara said today on Twitter.
D'Souza meanwhile went after Bharara.
The feds charged that D'Souza used 'straw donors' to funnel more money to the Senate campaign of Republican Wendy Long in New York; charging documents indicated that Long's campaign figured out what was going on.
"When confronted by Ms. Long, D’SOUZA initially misled the candidate before admitting what he had done," the Department of Justice noted.
Long was running against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
While D'Souza plead guilty, he charged that the Obama Administration had targeted him, simply because of his more conservative political views, which included a 2010 book that was critical of President Obama.
But in court, those arguments were rejected.
Mr. Trump's decision was immediately hailed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
"Dinesh was the subject of a political prosecution, brazenly targeted by the Obama administration," Cruz said moments after Mr. Trump's announcement.
"Mr. D’Souza was, in the President’s opinion, a victim of selective prosecution for violations of campaign finance laws," the White House said in a written statement.
But Democrats saw something else - a signal that the President will pardon supporters, no matter what.
"It’s the only Administration priority for which there is a clear strategy - make clear that he will pardon politically connected folks," said Jennifer Palmieri, a top aide on Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.