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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Trump to pardon controversial Indian American pundit Dinesh D’Souza

D’Souza’s pardon is also possibly the first for the Indian American community.

world Updated: May 31, 2018 23:41 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
File photo of Dinesh D'Souza.
File photo of Dinesh D'Souza.(Reuters)

US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he will grant a full pardon to controversial Indian American conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating campaign funding law.

“Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today,” Trump tweeted. “He was treated very unfairly by our government!”

This is Trump’s fifth pardon. Beneficiaries include controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt of a court, and Scooter Lobby, a George W Bush White House staffer convicted in 2007 of leaking the identity of an undercover CIA officer.

D’Souza’s pardon is also possibly the first for Indian Americans, a tiny but prosperous community of 4 million that has been called a model minority for staying on the right side of law, among other things.

D’Souza, who came to the US as a student from Mumbai and went on to work in the Reagan White House, pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws in 2012 by using “straw donors” to contribute more money than allowed to the campaign of Wendy Long, a Republican who was running for the New York state Senate. He had reimbursed these “straw donors” for their contributions.

D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 after the court rejected his argument that he had been selectively targeted and was sentenced to five years in probation that involved mandatory community service and counseling. He was also fined $30,000.

Preet Bharara, the Indian American US attorney for the Southern District of New York was one of the led prosecutors in that case.

“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,” he tweeted after Trump made the announcement. “The career prosecutors and agents did their job. Period.”

Bharara was fired by Trump in 2017, along with a bunch of other US attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama.

D’Souza used the experience of his brush with the law as the staging point for a film that was released around the Republican party convention in 2016, at which Trump was crowned the party’s presidential candidate. Called Hillary’s America: The secret history of the Democratic Party, the film received Trump’s endorsement in the form of a two-word tweet: “See it”.

First Published: May 31, 2018 23:41 IST