President Trump recently announced (naturally, on Twitter) that he would issue a full pardon to conservative filmmaker, writer, and commentator Dinesh D’Souza. Immediately, conservatives around the country, from Andrew Klavan to Charlie Kirk, praised Trump’s decision as finally correcting a miscarriage of justice. For the most part, their jubilation was warranted.
In January 2014, two years following the release of “2016: Obama’s America,” a documentary criticizing then-President Obama, D’Souza was charged with making $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions and lying to the FEC. Prosecutors alleged he made the contributions to Wendy Long, a friend of his running for Senate in New York. After unsuccessfully arguing that the charges should be dropped because he had no intent to commit these violations, D’Souza pled guilty. The judge ordered him to pay a $30,000 fine, and sentenced him to 5 years probation and 8 months in a halfway house.
Cries that D’Souza was selectively prosecuted were loud from the beginning, and such a steep punishment for a crime seldom brought to trial only made them louder. D’Souza even garnered sympathy from members of the left. Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz said, “The idea of charging him with a felony for this doesn’t sound like a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion…I can’t help but think that his politics have something to do with it…It smacks of selective prosecution.”
Trump’s pardoning of D’Souza for this apparent abuse of the legal system is perfectly legitimate. However, Trump’s rumored pardons for Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) would not be, and in fact hurt the credibility of Trump and the conservative movement.
Rod Blagojevich was arrested by the DOJ and impeached from office in 2009 by unanimous votes from his fellow partisans in the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly. He was found guilty of 17 criminal charges based on overwhelming evidence. Charges included soliciting bribes from politicians to fill President Obama’s vacated Senate seat. There were no cries of selective prosecution and no accusations of bias; evidence allowed prosecutors to establish intent, easily.
Blagojevich doesn’t deserve a pardon, and neither does another rumored pardon recipient, Martha Stewart.
Stewart makes a mean apple crisp, but she was found guilty in March 2004 on felony charges of conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding, and making false statements to federal investigators during an investigation into an alleged insider-trading scam that netted a large cash payout for her and an associate. Again, there was no controversy around Stewart’s case, other than the apparent lenient sentence she received, compared to others convicted of the same crime.
So what is Trump’s motive to pardon Stewart and Blagojevich? Two words: “Celebrity Apprentice.” Blagojevich was a contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” and Trump helped Martha Stewart create her own spin-off show (“The Apprentice: Martha Stewart”), shortly after her release from prison.
The close relationship between Trump, Blagojevich, and Stewart does not help the President defend his credibility against the left’s claims that he believes he is “above the law.” In fact, these seemingly baseless rumored pardons also damage the conservative movement.
How can conservatives argue that the rule of law matters and should be applied equally and fairly, when the figurehead of the GOP pardons people based on nothing more than friendship? Conservatives bashed President Obama after he pardoned Chelsea Manning, because the pardon seemed to stem from the political element of Manning’s case instead of judicial wrongdoing (Chelsea was formerly named Bradley, transitioning from male to female following release). Remaining silent while Trump makes similar politically- and personally-motivated moves is hypocritical and does no favors to those fighting for the fair prosecution of figures like Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Bill Ayers, and even Trump himself in the Mueller Probe.
Not only do these rumored pardons harm conservatives’ arguments for the equal application of the law away from politically motivated justice, but they also undermine arguments for limited government. How can conservatives argue for a limited, constrained executive or devolution of power from the federal government to the states when they also wish to empower the executive to pardon on a whim? As commentator Jonah Goldberg was quick to point out, “[For what it’s worth] the pardon power was created when there were very few federal crimes (i.e. 3). When you give the federal government the power to police vast swaths of public life, you’re also giving the president power to pardon a much greater number of things.”
Dinesh D’Souza? Okay. Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich? No way!
Conservatives should applaud D’Souza’s pardon; his prosecution was politically motivated. They shouldn’t laud the President for pardoning Celebrity Apprentice contestants and home bakers who lack compelling reasons to receive a pardon. It doesn’t help the President combat liberal lies and it doesn’t help conservatives maintain credibility with the American public.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.