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Former Mueller Prosecutor Will Put on His Whistleblower Hat, Testify About Bill Barr’s Intervention in Roger Stone Case

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: U.S. Attorney General William Barr attends the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. With the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus rising and foreseeable economic turmoil, the U.S. Congress continues to work on legislation for the nearly $2 trillion dollar aid package to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former prosecutor in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office–who quit the Roger Stone prosecution after Attorney General Bill Barr overruled the sentencing recommendations made by the career prosecutors on the case–will put on his whistleblower hat and dish on that day in recent DOJ infamy.

Zelinsky and John W. Elias, two current DOJ prosecutors, are going to testify under subpoena before the House Judiciary Committee. Per The New York Times:

House Democrats issued subpoenas on Tuesday to the two officials, including Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, one of the career prosecutors who quit a case against President Trump’s friend Roger J. Stone Jr. after Mr. Barr and other senior officials intervened to reverse their recommendation that Mr. Stone be sentenced in accord with standard guidelines and instead requested leniency.

The other official who agreed to serve as a witness is John W. Elias, a career official in the Justice Department’s antitrust division. The division opened an inquiry into a fuel efficiency deal between major automakers and the state of California; congressional Democrats have called the scrutiny politically motivated.

As the two officials are currently employed at the DOJ, it is likely that the department will move to clamp down on what they tell the Democrat-led committee. The Times suggested that the DOJ will assert privilege over subject matter pertaining to internal executive branch deliberations.

Zelinsky withdrew from the Stone case along with three others back in February. Adam JedMichael J. Marando and Jonathan Kravis all left the case. Kravis left the DOJ entirely and made some noise in the op-ed pages of the Washington Post.

Kravis wrote that the DOJ  “abandoned its responsibility to do justice” in the Stone case and did the same thing all over again in the Michael Flynn case.

“Last week, the department again put political patronage ahead of its commitment to the rule of law, filing a motion to dismiss the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn — notwithstanding Flynn’s sworn guilty plea and a ruling by the court that the plea was sound,” he wrote. “But I feel compelled to write because I believe that the department’s handling of these matters is profoundly misguided, because my colleagues who still serve the department are duty-bound to remain silent and because I am convinced that the department’s conduct in the Stone and Flynn cases will do lasting damage to the institution.”

House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee also believe that Barr has done lasting damage to the DOJ and have lined up some whistleblowers to testify about this. Zelinsky is one of those whistleblowers.

It appears that Democrats are interested in hearing from Elias about the Trump administration’s targeting of automakers.

In early June, Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced the whistleblower hearings and threatened to cut the budget of the attorney general’s personal office to counter Barr’s “refusal” to testify before the panel and his “defiance of Congress.” Democrats plan on exploring Barr’s “improper politicization” of the DOJ.

“In the coming weeks, the Committee will hear testimony from DOJ whistleblowers and former Department officials. These individuals are prepared to describe specific incidents of misconduct, as well as the unprecedented politicization of the Department of Justice under President [Donald] Trump and Attorney General Barr,” a press release from the committee said .

“The Attorney General’s behavior is unacceptable. He continues to undermine his career staff in a flailing effort to erase the findings of the Mueller investigation. He refuses to answer questions about actions taken by the Department during the coronavirus epidemic,” Nadler said. “He told the Committee that he could not find the time to testify because of that epidemic—but took the time to tour the peaceful protests at Lafayette Park just minutes before riot police fired tear gas into the crowd. Mr. Barr has thoroughly corrupted the integrity of the criminal justice system, he has shown contempt for Congress, and the Committee has an obligation to hold him to account.”

A hearing has been set for June 24.

According to the Times, Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush, is also expected to testify.

In February, Ayer penned an op-ed in The Atlantic calling for Barr’s resignation, saying Barr’s “long-held belief in the need for a virtually autocratic executive” clearly illustrates his “unfitness for office.” The op-ed was published one day after more than 1,100 former DOJ officials signed an open letter also calling for Barr’s resignation.

“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go,” Ayer wrote. “It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.”

[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.