President Donald Trump on Thursday morning announced he would pardon another person — a conservative pundit who pleaded guilty to violating election fundraising rules.
Dinesh D’Souza is a conservative firebrand who earlier this year was caught mocking Parkland high schoolers who survived a school shooting. In 2014, he violated campaign finance law that limits how much money a person can raise for a candidate, and how they can go about doing so. Rules on this are clear-cut, and D’Souza clearly stepped over the line — a point which he admitted to in his sentencing.
Specifically, D’Souza tried to circumvent rules on fundraising by giving more than $10,000 to a candidate he supported. He did so by recruiting others to donate to that candidate, promising to reimburse them after they made the donation.
“I did reimburse them,” he said in 2014. “I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids.”
Despite D’Souza's admission of guilt and clear violation of election law which resulted in a felony conviction for him, Trump maintained on Twitter Thursday morning that D’Souza was somehow treated unfairly.
Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
It seems as though Trump is more focused on granting pardons to conservatives he likes than actually rectifying injustices. As someone who purports to be tough on crime, Trump seems to like letting his political allies off the hook for their misdeeds.
This is an extreme abuse of the pardon power, but what can be done? The Constitution doesn’t lay out any checks for the other branches of government to make against the president if they issue a pardon. But that doesn’t mean a challenge can’t be made in the courts.
Several cases have reached the Supreme Court, in fact, regarding the extent of the pardon power. Justices haven’t ruled against a specific pardon being made, but they’ve also made it clear the power isn’t an absolute one. In a 1974 case called Schick v. Reed, for instance, the Court ruled that the pardoning power could only be executed in circumstances “which [do] not otherwise offend the Constitution.” In other words, if the pardon in some way violates the tenets of the highest law of the land, then the pardon itself could be challenged.
This should grant us some relief because it means that Trump can’t go willy-nilly with the pardoning power. But more checks on the president should be instituted, specifically allowing challenges to his pardons to be made.
Congress should assert its own power and provide legislation or a Constitutional amendment allowing that branch of government the right to oppose and force the president to defend his pardons. This type of action likely won’t come about, however, unless a new Congress comes to power in November.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Lucas Jackson/Reuters