Donald Trump has offered a full pardon to the far-right documentary film-maker Dinesh D’Souza and talked about pardoning Martha Stewart and commuting the prison sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.
In a flurry of controversial moves on Thursday, the president tweeted his intention to pardon D’Souza and then while aboard Air Force One on his way to Texas, brought up the other two names, noting that home cooking and decor expert Stewart “used to be one of my biggest fans”.
Last year Trump pardoned Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was known for racial profiling in his hardline immigration enforcement and the harsh treatment of prisoners, who were made to sleep outdoors and work on chain gangs.
D’Souza, best known as the 57-year-old director of 2016’s anti-Clinton documentary Hillary’s America, had pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws in 2014, and on Twitter Trump has claimed he was “treated very unfairly” by the government.
D’Souza had been sentenced to five years of probation and a $30,000 fine after illegally using straw donors to contribute to the campaign of Wendy Long, a Republican Senate candidate in 2012. He initially expressed regret but later claimed he was targeted.
D’Souza has a history of making wild statements on Twitter. Last year, he suggested that the Charlottesville rally was staged by the left, defended Hitler by claiming he was “not anti-gay” and called Rosa Parks an “overrated Democrat”.
In February, he apologized for a tweet aimed at survivors of the shooting at a high school in Parkland. He’d shared a picture of emotional students witnessing a vote against an assault weapons ban in Florida, calling it the “worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs”. He later called it “insensitive to students who lost friends in a terrible tragedy”.
He’s also criticized feminism, same-sex marriage and spent a large part of his career targeting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
In 2010, he wrote a book called The Roots of Obama’s Rage, which was a New York Times best-seller that was criticized for factual inaccuracies. In 2012, the Obama administration called his documentary 2016: Obama’s America “an insidious attempt to dishonestly smear the president”, but the film was a surprise hit, making $33.4m at the US box office. His follow-up, Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, won four Razzies, including worst picture.
Later on Thursday morning, Trump announced he is considering pardoning Stewart and commuting the sentence of Blagojevich.
Trump told reporters on Air Force One that Blagojevich said something “dumb” but that “lots of politicians” do, and he thinks his sentence is excessive.
The Democratic former governor began serving his 14-year prison sentence on corruption convictions in 2012. His scheduled release date is 2024. Blagojevich was also a contestant on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice reality television show in 2010.
Stewart was convicted in 2004 of obstructing justice and lying to the government about why she sold stock just before the price plummeted. Without giving a full explanation of why he felt she might warrant a pardon, Trump said she “used to be one of my biggest fans”.
And after Trump tweeted his pardon, D’Souza announced his latest project, a movie “out this summer in time for the midterm elections” and promoted his book The Big Lie which revolves around the left’s attempt “to paint conservatives as Nazis to cover up their own fascism”. Texas senator Ted Cruz shared his support of the decision, calling D’Souza “a powerful voice for freedom”.
Joe Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court last July for defying a judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos.