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NEW YORK – Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative author and filmmaker whose stunning "2016" grabbed the nation's attention during the last presidential campaign with its criticism of Barack Obama, is vowing a strong defense to charges filed against him by the Obama Justice Department.
"I will not be stopped by Barack Obama," D'Souza told WND in an exclusive interview. He also affirmed his plan to proceed with the planned July 4 release of his new film, "America," despite being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice on campaign-finance charges.
"So, I'm releasing a new film this year and what I am making clear is that whatever these guys are trying, it's not going to stop me from making the film or releasing the film or being able to put my message out there," he said.
He said he's planning an aggressive defense of the criminal charges.
"Normally, when you charge somebody with a serious crime, in this case two counts of a felony with a maximum of seven years in prison, there has to be malevolent intent, you have to be trying to do something bad," D'Souza explained.
"In this particular case, they are saying I transcended the campaign limit by $20,000, but even they admit that the motive of doing this is to help a long-time friend, a college classmate of mine, Wendy Long, who is running an uphill campaign for the Senate in New York. But they're not alleging that I did this with a view to getting an appointment, or quid-pro-quo. I'm not a professional bundler in any way. This was, even if what they say was true, not normally the kind of thing for which you engage in this type of heavy-handed prosecution. It is unusual."
D'Souza explained that the effort to prosecute him is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration is systematically attempting to suppress the First Amendment rights of conservative Americans.
"I think we see with Obama there is a broader pattern here going on. It's not as if this were a single isolated case. You've got the IRS scandal, selective targeting going on there," D'Souza said.
"So, Obama said recently that all of this is 'boneheaded,' it's as if [these are] accidental, goofball mistakes. But it seems the mistakes have a trajectory and a certain pattern to them," he said.
WND previously reported that Gerald Molen, the producer of D'Souza's two full-length feature film documentaries, "2016: Obama's America," released in 2012, and the about-to-be-released "America," had characterized D'Souza's criminal indictment as a Soviet-style "political prosecution."
"When Dinesh D'Souza can be prosecuted for making a movie, every American should ask themselves one question: 'What will I do to preserve the First Amendment?'" he said.
D'Souza told WND that Molen, too, was harassed by the Obama administration for his role producing D'Souza's full-length feature film documentaries.
"Right after '2016' came out, Molen got a call from the IRS," D'Souza said.
"I just think it's interesting the searchlight fell on him so randomly, so to speak, and so quickly right after. Molen has been around for a long time. He's made 'Minority Report' and 'Jurassic Park' and for all this time he escaped scrutiny from the IRS, but then suddenly in a sense, the moment he comes out of the closet as a conservative, boom – 'Hello, this is your friendly IRS agent calling,'" he said.
D'Souza argued he was prosecuted because his first feature film offended Obama personally, not just because the film represented a political challenge to Obama's presidential re-election hopes in 2012.
"When '2016' came out, I was carefully monitoring what kind of effect if any this would have on Obama, and I don't just mean on the Obama campaign, I mean on the president himself," he said. "And for a while, there was dead silence from the Obama campaign. They said nothing about the film. And, in fact, the major media networks followed and acted as if the film didn't even exist, even though the film was in just about every major theater chain in America."
In fact, it ranks as among the most popular documentaries ever.
Then D'Souza noticed "2016" was attacked on the Obama campaign website, BarackObama.com.
"You can see it is a very intemperate and almost demented attack on the film. Some of the things that it charges about the film aren't even in the film, although they do appear in my published works. You can see that the film '2016' did kind of unhinge Obama. And I think part of the reason for that is that the film wasn't just a critique of his policies, it delved into his psyche. It kind of got in a way under his skin, I don't mean by just annoying him, I mean by getting into what are the underlying traumatic factors that have driven him into becoming the kind of man that he is."
D'Souza told WND the harassment from the Obama administration began when he was filming "2016" in Africa.
"When we were down in Kenya and we were in the grandmother's compound and we were observing the homestead and the grave, Obama's sister got wind – she's in Nairobi – and she got wind that we were there," he said. "And she immediately called the cops and she called the local chieftains to basically run us out of town. And we had to literally grab our stuff and flee. And we were worried at that time that we would either be apprehended or equally significant that they would confiscate our film."
D'Souza disclosed the film crew established emergency measures to make sure their film footage got out of Kenya should D'Souza and the film crew be detained in the country, or in case the Kenyan government made an attempt to otherwise confiscate the film footage.
"So my point is, it's very clear with the Obama family that these people take this stuff very seriously and they try to run interception where they can," he stressed. "Now, they did not succeed in blocking '2016,' and the film in fact made a big stir in 2012 after being released."
D'Souza told WND his lawyers have a hearing with the federal court in New York to determine when his case will be tried, but he expects the case will go to trial with a 12-member jury, possibly beginning before the scheduled July 4 opening of "America" across the nation.
"Launching a defense in the federal criminal indictment has been every expensive," D'Souza admitted.
"I won't deny that it is traumatic. You have to take it seriously because they are looking to lock you up. So you can't be frivolous about. At the same time, I want to be clear this is not something that has knocked me out for the count. I'm not someone to give in easily on this kind of a thing. I'm determined to continue to speak my mind and do my work."
He explained that "America" was written in part to answer the question, "What is unique about America?"
Answering that question took D'Souza on a historical examination of America's key conflicts, leading back to the challenges that faced our Founding Fathers.
He explained: "I think that the remarkable thing about our debate today is that the left and the right agree there is something unique about America, but the conservatives believe that America in some ways is uniquely good and the progressives led by Obama think that America is uniquely bad – in other words, that American history has been characterized by a unique set of crimes and offenses, that American capitalism is uniquely materialistic and selfish, that American foreign policy is uniquely devoted to plunder. So, we wanted to take on this argument head-on in the film and answer it at the root level."
D'Souza told WND the debate with Bill Ayers at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Jan. 30, 2014, will provide footage to be used in "America."
"The way that debate came about is that I actually had approached Bill Ayers to interview him for the film," D'Souza said.
"And he goes, 'Well, I'm a little nervous. I don't want you to present me like a clown.' So, I said, 'Well, I won't present you as a clown if you in fact are not a clown.' So, he said, 'Maybe we should do a public debate and it will be on the public record and it can't be disputed.' So the debate came about initially as a way to talk to him about the film, but as it turned out we got some good footage from the debate that we could use for the film."
D'Souza explained why he considered the contrast between Ayers and himself to be important to the themes developed in "America."
"I think in some ways the debate was bigger than the two of us," he said.
"I'm an immigrant, I chose America, I love America, I try in my various books to look at America from different angles and give my case in a sense for what's so great about America. Bill Ayers is a child of privilege. His father was CEO, I believe, of Con Edison. He's a creature of the sixties. He came in a way to detest America because of its involvement in Vietnam, and like many people in his generation he used that single episode to generalize and develop a whole ideology about the terribleness of America – you know, America the indefensible is kind of his theme, that's what turned him into a guerrilla revolutionary in the seventies and it's what makes him a left-wing activist today."
D'Souza objected to any attempt to characterize "America" as a partisan film, insisting instead that it was an "ideological film" based on debates about what makes America great.
"I think this film is going to cause a big stir, just like '2016' did," he said. "The production quality is far superior. 'America' will be film with a mighty, ideological punch to it that will plunge into political issues head on."
Based on the success of '2016,' D’Souza is able to plan a more aggressive roll-out of "America" into movie theaters across the United States following the planned July 4 opening.
"We're not political operatives, and we're not representing the Republican National Committee. We're trying to get all Americans to see this film, and our goal is pretty much to have it in every major theater chain in the country. We managed to achieve that with '2016.' That peaked in about 2,200 theaters, so it was running neck-to-neck with some of the big films in Hollywood. We're trying to make sure that in every multiplex and Cineplex where there is a collection of films, one of the theaters is showing our film."