Mueller deputy who quit Stone case to testify before House panel
The House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena to one of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s top deputies who will testify next week amid a Democratic push to scrutinize Attorney General William Barr’s actions related to the Mueller team’s prosecutions of top Trump officials.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, issued a subpoenaed to Aaron Zelinsky, a member of Mueller’s team who prosecuted President Donald Trump’s friend and adviser Roger Stone, who was sentenced to 40 months in prison earlier this year. Zelinsky will testify on June 24 along with a Justice Department official in the Antitrust Division and a former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, the committee said.
Zelinsky took Stone’s case to trial, and was one of the four prosecutors to quit the case when Barr softened the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Stone.
Zelinsky has the potential to be one of the most potent witnesses about Barr’s recent decision-making and from the Mueller investigation, given his laser focus on one of the team’s signature prosecutions, of Stone, his experience with the Justice Department leadership’s influence in the case and his decision to stay within the Justice Department afterward, which few Mueller prosecutors have done.
Zelinsky’s testimony comes amid a sustained attack on the special counsel’s team from Trump’s allies inside and outside the Trump administration. Two Senate Republican chairmen are investigating the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation that became the Mueller probe, and have been granted wide-ranging subpoena authority.
Nadler has accused Barr of refusing to testify before his committee, after an earlier scheduled appearance in March was scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Democrats have charged that Barr has made overtly political decisions targeting the Mueller team, from the Stone sentencing recommendation to the DOJ’s decision to drop the charges against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. That case is still pending, and a court-appointed former judge accused the Justice Department of a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” in dropping a case to which Flynn had pleaded guilty.
He described Zelinsky and John Elias, the acting chief of staff in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, who was also subpoenaed, as Justice Department whistleblowers.
“The Committee welcomes the testimony of current and former Department officials who will speak to the lasting damage the President and the Attorney General have inflicted on the Department of Justice,” Nadler said in a statement.
Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, is also testifying at the hearing without a subpoena, the committee said.
Zelinsky, a federal prosecutor based in Baltimore, focused his efforts in the Mueller investigation on prosecuting Stone. He was the Mueller team member who flew to Florida the day Stone was arrested there, and stayed with the case in a special assignment in Washington even after Mueller’s office closed. He since returned to the Maryland US Attorney’s Office, taking on fraud and public corruption investigations, including related to the coronavirus pandemic.