WASHINGTON — Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative author and filmmaker pardoned by President Trump, claimed victory on Friday over what he characterized as a political prosecution by the administration of President Barack Obama.
In terms that evidently resonated with Mr. Trump, who is aggrieved about investigations that he blames on his predecessor, Mr. D’Souza presented himself as a victim of selective justice, hounded by Mr. Obama’s attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., and the United States attorney in New York, Preet Bharara, because he made a movie sharply critical of Mr. Obama.
“What happened here is Obama and his team, Eric Holder, Preet Bharara in New York, these guys decided to make an example of me, and I think that the reason for this was Obama’s anger over my movie that I made about him,” Mr. D’Souza said on “Fox and Friends,” one of Mr. Trump’s favorite shows.
“And so, this was a vindictive political hit that was kind of aimed at putting me out of business, essentially making — destroying my credibility, making it impossible for me to make movies, write books, and that since has failed. But it still left a cloud over me,” he added. “I would be a lifelong felon. I would never be able to vote and never have my full rights.”
Mr. D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions to Wendy E. Long, a college friend running for Senate from New York as a Republican. He reimbursed others for making $20,000 in gifts to her campaign in what are called straw donations to evade contribution limits. He was fined $30,000 and sentenced to five years probation, including eight months in a supervised “community confinement center.”
Mr. D’Souza acknowledged during the court proceedings that he knew what he was doing was wrong and apologized for it. In the Fox interview on Friday, he said he agreed to plead guilty because prosecutors added a second charge that allowed them to threaten a possible five-year prison term, what he called a “kind of legal bludgeoning tactic.”
Mr. Trump said on Thursday that he pardoned Mr. D’Souza because he was “treated very unfairly.” He said that nobody asked him to do so, but in fact Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, had promoted Mr. D’Souza’s case with the president over dinner at the White House, according to both Mr. D’Souza and congressional officials. Mr. Cruz spent much of Thursday with the president during a trip to Houston and Dallas and applauded the pardon.
Mr. Bharara, who was fired by Mr. Trump last year and became one of his most outspoken critics, has rejected the assertion that Mr. D’Souza was prosecuted for political reasons.
Carrie H. Cohen, then an assistant United States attorney who prosecuted Mr. D’Souza, noted on Friday that a judge considered the claim and rejected it. “The court found no evidence to support D’Souza’s claim that he was selectively prosecuted,” she said in an interview.
Judge Richard M. Berman, who presided over the case, held a hearing into the contention of selective prosecution and determined there was no basis for it.
“There is no evidence of discriminatory effect nor of discriminatory purpose,” the judge said at the time, according to a transcript. “The defendant is, for example, unable to say what classification he is in and whom, if anyone, is similarly situated in a different classification that has not been prosecuted. That the case is interesting or high profile, is insufficient to constitute some evidence of selective prosecution.”
Mr. Trump has been arguing for months that he is the victim of selective justice, contending that the investigation into contacts between his campaign and Russia in 2016 and actions he took that some consider obstruction was nothing more than a “witch hunt” while the F.B.I. should be putting Democrats like Hillary Clinton in prison instead.
Mr. D’Souza said the president called him on Wednesday to tell him about the pardon. "He said that, ‘I got to tell you man-to-man, you’ve been screwed,’ ” Mr. D’Souza recalled. “He goes, ‘I have been looking at the case. I knew from the beginning that it was fishy.’ ”
“But 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,” Mr. D’Souza said of his conversation with Mr. Trump. “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.”
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