Filmmaker and author Dinesh D'Souza said Tuesday that President Donald Trump was trying to pardoned him to "send the message that there was a political hit on my by the Obama administration."
"[It was] kind of selective prosecution for an offense that is an offense, but is normally considered a technical offense that gets community service or maybe a fine," D'Souza told CNN "New Day" co-host Alisyn Camerota.
"In my case, to quote President Trump, 'they went after you with everything they got.'"
Trump said he wanted to set the injustice right, D'Souza added, and "that's what the pardon did."
In May 2014, D'Souza, 57, admitted he illegally had reimbursed two "straw donors" who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s. He also personally gave $10,000 to the campaign, when the legal limit at the time was $5,000.
Then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara accused D'Souza following his sentencing of "willfully undermining the integrity of the campaign finance process." The conservative author has written several books on politics and religion and the films "2016: Obama's America" and "Hillary's America."
D'Souza told Camerota that he pleaded guilty because "the government in these cases uses all kinds of strong arm tactics behind the scenes. For example, they'll say we'll get you for mail fraud. You say mail fraud?Yeah, because you put the check in the mail. We'll get you for bank fraud. Because you withdrew the money from the bank. We'll put additional charges that carry five years in prison. Alisyn, would you risk five years in prison? What would that do to your life and career?"
Camerota told him that the same thing happens in every criminal case she'd covered, and told him he didn't have to plead guilty.
She then played a clip with comments from Bharara, in which he stated that federal Judge Richard Burman was well-respected and listened to the arguments on both sides, but D'Souza told her that Burman was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
He also commented that Burman wanted him sentenced to "mandatory psychiatric counseling."
"What could be crazier than that. I am Jeffrey Dahmer, who put bodies in the refrigerator?" said D'Souza, "I gave money to a college friend of mine who was running for office."
He also insisted that "no American in this country's history" has been prosecuted "for doing what I did."
Camerota, though, argued that a simple Google check turned up several people who had been found guilty and "went to jail for much more time than you went to the halfway house."
"That's simply not true," he argued. "Remember, there's no corruption alleged in my case. If you can find me a case where somebody gave 20 grand with no corruption and got a more severe penalty than I did, I will completely withdraw this claim."
Camerota also on Tuesday pulled some of D'Souza's older tweets about to read on the air, claiming they were racist in nature when he was talking about Obama, and saying she was sharing them because he'd said Trump wants him to be a"bigger voice" for conservatives.
"I would be happy to talk about those two tweets," he said. "Obama's father was a philandering inebriated African socialist...I was referring to Obama's book "Dreams From my Father." Hold on, let me talk about principles."
He also argued that he is a "mainstream conservative" who worked in the Reagan adminstration and worked at the most reputable conservative foundation.
"My argument about Obama wasn't about philandering," he said. "Obama is not a philanderer. His father was but Obama wasn't."
D'Souza also argued that Trump is not "setting the tone" for for the nation.
"Republicans have said basically in the past we nominated boy Scotts like Mitt Romney, people who were squeaky clean and the left launched such attacks on these people that they ended up looking like Lucifer," said D'Souza. "We're finally going to appoint a tough guy who can take it and can return a punch. And so, Trump, yes, I think he's in a much more -- in the mud if you might say, and I regret that this is the environment we now live in, but we do."
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