President Donald Trump's decision to pardon Dinesh D'Souza, a vitriolic and racist conservative commentator, for election-related crimes drew fire on Thursday as many believed the president was attempting to signal to the targets of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that he is willing to protect them.
However, BuzzFeed News reported that allies of the president were convinced that the move was not an attempt to send a message to Mueller's targets. One former White House officials told the news outlet that Trump isn't playing "the sort of three-dimensional chess people ascribe to decisions like this. More often than not he's just eating the pieces."
Trump is also reportedly considering pardons for Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Though he shares something of Trump's political style and disregard for common civility decency, D'Souza has not been a particularly prominent supporter of the president. Because of this fact, many were surprised when the pardon was announced.
Debbie D'Souza said her husband's pardon was partially due to Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) raising of the issue with the president. The Daily Caller reported that Cruz had told Debbie and Dinesh D'Souza that he would push Trump to issue the pardon.
Even if the president's allies are correct that Trump's decision to pardon D'Souza is more based on whim than on grand strategy, the pardon could still be partially intended to send a message to people like Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, who is currently facing pressure from a federal investigation and may be considering turning on the president. After all, it doesn't take much strategic thinking to realize that a pardon for an election crime could send a signal to your friends that you're willing to pardon any election crimes they may have committed.