Convicted criminal Dinesh D'Souza is a favorite in far right circles because he is more racist, more hateful and more outspoken in public than most Republicans are. As a minority, D'Souza found his calling in life denigrating anyone with darker skin than himself and promoting vile right wing conspiracy theories -- mostly about President Obama, whom he developed an extreme hatred for due to his African ancestry.
D'Souza spent time in jail in 2014 for making $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a U.S. Senate candidate, and only thanks to his vicious racism has been able to make a living for himself in the right wing media echo chamber. But now, D'Souza has received a presidential pardon from Donald Trump, ostensibly because he was treated "very unfairly", but mostly because he serves as a useful messenger to Michael Cohen who may well be facing jail time for assisting Trump in committing a serious campaign finance violation of his own.
Trump understands that Cohen may well flip in the coming months, preferring to spend time with his family instead of eating prison food in an orange jump suit for the foreseeable future. By pardoning D'Souza -- a low level internet troll and fake documentary maker -- Trump is sending Cohen a very explicit message: campaign finance law violations will be forgiven. You will be pardoned too. There is literally no other reason to target D'Souza with this act of generosity (other than perhaps his mutual dislike for African Americans and other immigrants).
The New York Times floated this very obvious theory today in a piece published by the editorial board:
Maybe the president is sending a signal of loyalty and reassurance to friends and family members who may soon find themselves facing similar criminal charges in connection with the special counsel’s Russia inquiry. That could help explain Mr. Trump’s interest in Mr. D’Souza (campaign-finance violations), as well as two other big names he hinted on Thursday he might grant clemency to — the lifestyle maven Martha Stewart (lying to federal authorities) and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois (corruption and bribery) — and a previous Trump pardon, Scooter Libby, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff (perjury and obstruction of justice).
Or maybe Mr. Trump is wielding his pardon power against his perceived enemies in federal law enforcement. Besides Mr. Bharara, there’s James Comey, who prosecuted Ms. Stewart, and Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted both Mr. Blagojevich and Mr. Libby, and is a friend of Mr. Comey’s.
And let’s not forget Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff and hunter of undocumented immigrants, whom Mr. Trump pardoned last summer for contempt of a federal court order — Mr. Trump clearly was thumbing his nose at the federal court that found Mr. Arpaio guilty.
Or perhaps Mr. Trump simply is dealing another hammer blow to the legacy of Mr. Obama, who focused his own clemency efforts on reducing the lengthy sentences of thousands of low-level drug offenders with no personal connection to the White House.
It may well be a combination of all the above, but Trump has already sent a messages to Cohen via his pardoning of "Scooter" Libby (Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide who was indicted on perjury charges), right as it seemed like Cohen would almost certainly be turned into "canary that sings". Trump doesn't do subtlety, and this time his motivations are even more obvious. It goes without saying that this is an outrageous abuse of power and yet another assault on civil society and the rule of law. But this is what we must now expect from this president on a daily basis. It can never be normalized though, and it is always best to get even, not mad. As Bob Cesca put it so aptly today, "The best thing the opposition can do is to begin gathering battalions of fellow Democratic voters and prepare to storm polling places on November 6. As of this writing, there’s only 157 days to go." Dinesh D'Souza might feel pretty special after his presidential pardon, but it is a pyrrhic victory that history will surely undo in the not too distant future.