Correction: This report has been updated to accurately describe Martha Stewart and to reflect the quotations as they aired on television.
President Trump’s pardoning of a political ally and consideration of clemency for two former reality show colleagues could be sending a larger message to witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
On Thursday, Trump announced unexpectedly that he is granting a “full pardon” to the controversial conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, who had pleaded guilty in 2014 for federal campaign cash crimes.
“Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!” Trump tweeted.
Just a few hours after that tweet, Trump told reporters that he is considering commuting the sentence of the Former Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, as well as pardoning businesswoman and best-selling author Martha Stewart.
CNN’s Jake Tapper detailed connections between President Trump’s recently announced and suggested “pardons” today on “The Lead” – mostly that he thinks the government is treating him and them unfairly.
“Critics and analysts suggest this is all of apiece, these are all individuals prosecuted by people the president deems his opponents … ones who faced charges that members of the Trump team could face themselves,” said Tapper.
While both Blagojevich and Stewart appeared on Trump’s former television show, “The Apprentice,” the coincidence doesn’t stop there.
Both of their convictions have ties to the former FBI Director James Comey. For Stewart, she was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction and false statements by then U.S. Attorney James Comey. For Blagojevich, he was convicted of 17 public corruption charges, including wire fraud, and was arrested during US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s tenure in Chicago.
Fitzgerald is a close friend of Comey’s, currently a member of Comey’s legal team and was appointed by Comey to investigate and prosecute the Valerie Plane leak, which resulted in the conviction of Cheney aide Scooter Libby for lying to the FBI (who Trump also pardoned). Furthermore, D’Souza was prosecuted by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (who Trump fired).
And if those similarities aren’t enough, both D’Souza and Stewart were prosecuted by the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, the same one that is currently criminally investigating Trump’s personinsal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
“Is a signal being sent here at all by the president about his feelings about that office and his willingness to forgive the crimes of those targeted by law enforcement there?” Tapper asked Thursday on “The Lead.”
The categorization from Trump that D’Souza was “treated unfairly” is not new. Tapper noted an emerging theme for Trump pardons and potential pardons so far – that the US government is treating people unfairly. Trump has said this for Blagojevich, Stewart, Libby and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“Unfairly, unfairly, unfairly,” Tapper said. “Is the President preparing to pardon others? Maybe people he knows even better than Apprentice cast members for being treated quote ‘unfairly’ by special counsel Robert Mueller?”