To get a pardon from President Donald Trump, it clearly helps to be famous.
As conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza received clemency Thursday for a felony conviction for making campaign contributions through straw donors, Trump seemed to confirm that D’Souza’s high-public profile primarily in right-leaning media outlets contributed to his case.
“I’ve always felt he was very unfairly treated. And a lot of people did, a lot of people did, ” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I read the papers I see him on television.”
Trump also floated two other high-profile convictions he is considering wading into, suggesting a commutation for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who’s serving a 14-year sentence for corruption, and a pardon for Martha Stewart, who served a short term in jail for lying to investigators during an insider-trading probe.
The string of six pardons and commutations Trump has issued in recent months initially buoyed the hopes of clemency advocates that Trump would dive into the backlog of more than 10,000 applications pending at the Justice Department. But some of those activists are now growing concerned that only the famous or well-known will get relief.
“I don’t want to criticize the robust use of the clemency power, but this is not the priority list we would have drawn up,” said Kevin Ring of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “You see a lot of people who are over sentenced … I guess all we can do is hope this is the beginning, as he and the administration learn about some of the injustices.”
“Every president has done at least one of these special deals, but they’ve all also done more regular grants in addition,” said Margaret Love, a former Justice Department pardon attorney. “None has ignored the ordinary pardon caseload.”