House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he issued two subpoenas to Justice Department (DOJ) officials, including a former prosecutor in the Roger Stone case, to testify before Congress on accusations that the department had been politicized under the Trump administration.
Aaron Zelinsky and John Elias have been scheduled to testify before the committee on June 24, Nadler said on Tuesday. Zelinsky was one of the four prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case after department leaders decided to override the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation. Meanwhile, Elias serves as the acting chief of staff to the assistant attorney general of the antitrust division.
Zelinsky and Elias, who has been presented as DOJ “whistleblowers” by Democrat lawmakers, will be joined by former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer.
Zelinsky will testify about the DOJ’s handling of the Stone case, Elias will speak about alleged “improperly motivated activity” by his division, and Ayer is expected to testify about implications of “when there is a breakdown of the Department’s independence at the hands of its own leadership,” Nadler said in a statement. He also criticized Barr for failing to testify due to his schedule.
“The Attorney General—who cites his busy schedule as a basis for refusing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee but has made time for multiple television interviews—may have abdicated his responsibility to Congress, but the brave men and women of our civil service have not. 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,” he said.
Lawmakers have repeatedly claimed that the attorney general “engaged in a pattern of conduct in legal matters relating to the President that raises significant concerns for this Committee,” citing media reports. Nadler had asked Barr to testify before Congress earlier this year, which had been postponed due to “overwhelming health and safety concerns” amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The DOJ came under extensive scrutiny earlier this year over concerns that the department was acting under the influence of “improper political interference” from President Donald Trump in cases related to former associates of the president such as Roger Stone and Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The Democrats had billed the hearing as an opportunity to seek information and fulfill its oversight responsibility regarding how several departmental matters had been handled, including the Stone case, the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the department’s probe into the origins of the 2016 counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign, and the creation of a new process to vet information submitted by anyone including Giuliani.
The department’s actions have also prompted a group of former DOJ employees to call on Barr to resign.
Barr has repeatedly denied accusations that he was doing the “president’s bidding.” In a recent interview with CBS reporter Catherine Herridge, he defended the department’s decision to move to not prosecute Flynn and said that he was in fact “doing the law’s bidding.”