One of four prosecutors who withdrew from the case of longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone after Justice Department leaders intervened in his sentencing, Aaron Zelinsky, is prepared to testify to the House Judiciary Committee next week, Chairman Jerry Nadler revealed Tuesday.
Nadler issued two subpoenas, one for Zelinsky and one for DOJ Antitrust Division official John Elias, describing both as “whistleblowers” prepared to testify to allegations of political interference in Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department. A hearing with both men is set for June 24.
They’ll appear alongside Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general in President George H.W. Bush’s Justice Department, who is expected to speak broadly about the importance of an independent Justice Department.
“Again and again, Attorney General Barr has demonstrated that he will cater to President Trump’s private political interests, at the expense of the American people and the rule of law,” Nadler said in a statement. “He has abruptly reversed course on prosecutions against the President’s allies and friends. He has pursued pretextual investigations against the President’s perceived political enemies. He has failed to defend the Affordable Care Act, and he has helped to roll back important civil rights protections.”
Though Nadler issued subpoenas for Zelinsky and Elias, both appear to be willing to testify. The subpoenas, however, are a form of legal protection to witnesses who may face orders or demands from the Executive Branch to refuse to testify.
The House Intelligence Committee used similar tactics during its impeachment investigation, when a series of State Department and White House witnesses agreed to testify only after they were issued subpoenas, which they then considered their legal obligation to obey.
Zelinsky, who was a member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, led the prosecution of Stone, who was convicted by a jury last year of lying to congressional investigators pursuing Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone was also convicted of witness tampering.
In February, prosecutors recommended a steep sentence, citing Stone’s repeated and prolonged obstruction of the congressional probe on a matter of paramount importance to national security. Trump angrily tweeted about the recommendation, and the next day, Justice Department leaders overruled the line prosecutors and called for a lesser sentence.
All four career prosecutors, including Zelinsky, withdrew from the case. One, Jonathan Kravis, resigned from the Justice Department altogether and alleged political interference in the case, as well as in Barr’s handling of another matter related to a Trump ally: former national security adviser Michael Flynn. DOJ dropped the charges against Flynn despite his pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
Stone is due to report to prison on June 30, but Trump has told him to “sleep easy” and indicated there would be some kind of action — a pardon, commutation or other move — to prevent Stone from facing jail time.
Elias, Nadler indicated, would speak to “improperly motivated activity by the Antitrust Division.”
DOJ declined to comment.
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