President Donald Trump is lining up another controversial presidential pardon. Trump announced via his Twitter feed Thursday that he’ll be issuing a “Full Pardon” to Dinesh D’Souza, a political pundit and conservative provocateur who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance law violations in 2014.
Trump echoed D’Souza’s claims that federal prosecutors and the Obama administration treated him unfairly. The move follows Trump’s high-profile pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an anti-immigrant activist who was convicted for criminal contempt of court for refusing to stop alleged practices targeting Latino drivers and undocumented immigrants.
So just who is Dinesh D’Souza? An Indian-American political commentator, D’Souza has long been known for his bombastic political manifestos targeting figures like former President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. D’Souza’s 2016 film Hillary’s America racked up millions in ticket sales from conservative moviegoers. Critics have slammed him for promoting questionable propositions in his books and movies, such as the idea that slaves were treated “pretty well” and a 2010 Forbes cover story that argues Obama had been “the most antibusiness president in a generation” and driven by a “socialist” and “anticolonialist” agenda. (One of D’Souza’s most ardent supporters has been Fox News personality Laura Ingraham, whom he attended Dartmouth College with and was once engaged to.)
But political controversy aside, the crime that landed D’Souza in jail centered on campaign finance violations. “Dinesh D’Souza attempted to illegally contribute over $10,000 to a Senate campaign, willfully undermining the integrity of the campaign finance process,” wrote Preet Bharara, at the time a U.S. attorney in Manhattan, describing D’Souza’s alleged scheme to use straw donors to make contributions to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long in 2012. “Like many others before him, of all political stripes, he has had to answer for this crime – here with a felony conviction.”
D’Souza never received any jail time. He was sentenced to five years of probation (including eight months in a halfway house), community service, and a $30,000 fine. The judge who sentenced him said D’Souza’s claims of being treated unfairly by the government were “nonsense,” adding, “spin is what that is.”