The Russia Connection

Justice Department Attorneys Claim Political Interference in Prosecutorial Decisions

By Elliot Setzer
Tuesday, June 23, 2020, 3:24 PM

On June 23, two Department of Justice attorneys released written statements ahead of testimony tomorrow at a House Judiciary Committee hearing concerning political interference and threats to prosecutorial independence at the Department of Justice. Aaron Zelinsky, a prosecutor in the case of Trump ally Roger Stone, wrote: “What I heard—repeatedly—was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President.” In his statement, Antitrust Division attorney John Elias claimed that politically motivated antitrust investigations had been launched at the direction of Attorney General Bill Barr over the objections of career staff.

The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the testimony of Zelinsky and Elias on June 16. Zelinsky—one of special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors—resigned from the team prosecuting Stone in protest after the Justice Department instructed prosecutors to seek a lesser prison sentence. Elias currently serves as acting chief of staff to the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and previously filed a whistleblower complaint concerning ineffective and politically motivated investigations.

Zelinsky states that he saw the department exert “significant pressure” on line prosecutors in the Stone case to obscure the correct sentencing guidelines calculation, and distort Stone’s conduct. In his statement, Elias details investigations launched into an arrangement between California and automakers on fuel emissions that had “enraged” the president, as well as investigations into the cannabis industry.

Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer will also testify; his statement is available here. You can read the statements from Zelinsky and Elias below.

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