In relaying his pardon, Trump said he wants Dinesh D’Souza to be ‘a bigger voice than ever’ As originally appearing in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By: John Wagner
WASHINGTON – Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza said Friday that when President Donald Trump called him last week to relay that he was pardoning him, Mr. Trump told him that he was “a great voice for freedom” and wanted him to “be a bigger voice than ever.”
Mr. D’Souza, an author, filmmaker and provocateur who became a cult figure on the right in part because of his conspiratorial polemics about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, pleaded guilty in 2014 to illegally using straw donors to contribute to a New York Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat.
Mr. D’Souza’s comments, during a television interview, came a day after Mr. Trump issued a full pardon for his actions, saying Mr. D’Souza was treated unfairly and should have received only “a quick, minor fine.”
Mr. D’Souza was sentenced to five years of probation, including eight months living under supervision in a “community confinement center” in San Diego, and a $30,000 fine.
During an appearance Friday on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News, Mr. D’Souza said the phone call from Mr. Trump on Wednesday was unexpected.
“The president said, ‘Dinesh, you’ve been a great voice for freedom,‘ and he said that, ‘I got to tell you man-to-man, you’ve been screwed,’ ” Mr. D’Souza told Fox.
He said Mr. Trump told him that he had been looking at his case and said he “knew from the beginning that it was fishy.”
“He said upon reviewing it, he felt a great injustice had been done and that using his power, he was going to rectify it, sort of clear the slate, and he said he just wanted me to be out there, to be a bigger voice than ever, defending the principles that I believe in,” Mr. D’Souza said.
Prosecutors said Mr. D’Souza had other individuals donate money to Wendy Long, a Republican who was challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in 2012, under an agreement that he would reimburse them for the donations.
Mr. D’Souza said his prosecution was politically motivated, in part because he had made a film highly critical of then-President Barack Obama.
He told Fox he considered the case “a vindictive political hit.”
At the same time, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was acknowledging his role in helping secure a presidential pardon for the conservative writer and family friend, a day after Mr. Trump said “nobody asked” him to do it.
Mr. Cruz, whom Mr. D’Souza credited with approaching Mr. Trump about the pardon announced on Thursday, told reporters in Texas on Friday that he spoke with the president about it when Mr. Trump was in Dallas for the National Rifle Association meeting in early May.
According to The Texas Tribune, Mr. Cruz said the conversation came weeks after Mr. Trump granted a pardon for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of lying to the FBI in 2007.
“He had just pardoned Scooter Libby, who I think Scooter likewise had faced an unfair prosecution,” Mr. Cruz said, according to the Tribune. “I think that pardon was the right thing to do, and so in the car ride, I said, ‘You know, Mr. President, another pardon very much along the same lines of Scooter Libby would be Dinesh D’Souza, who I think was unfairly politically targeted.’ And the president agreed.”
Mr. D’Souza pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud in 2014. He admitted making illegal contributions to a U.S. Senate candidate in New York but has said he was wrongly targeted by the Obama administration for his conservative views.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who is weighing a 2020 presidential bid, on Friday sharply questioned Mr. Trump’s judgment in issuing a string of pardons, including one granted the day before to Mr. D’Souza.
“If you use all the typical metrics that we use in the Justice Department . . . very few of these people you’d consider good candidates for pardons,” Mr. Holder said at a “Politics and Eggs” event in New Hampshire that is considered a rite of passage for potential presidential candidates.